'Disaster' round the corner for Capital 17 | 09 | 2010

    IN A MOVE which simply reaffirms its remorseless attempt to cause as much disruption to drivers as possible, Edinburgh City Council is next week set to impose a huge traffic shake-up business leaders claim will be a "disaster" for traders in the city centre.

    Next week's vote — essentially a rubberstamp job — by councillors, is a by-product of the horrifically botched trams project and will give the go-ahead to the banning of cars from Shandwick Place.

    Business leaders across the capital have, with one voice, appealed to the council to postpone the measures. They fear, with a significant degree of justification, that the new plans will cause even more damage than the "disastrous" Central Edinburgh Traffic Management scheme introduced in 2005. Not surprisingly, the council ended up reversing many of the measures after a huge backlash by public and businesses.

    So far all very reasonable, clear and justifiable, but logic goes completely out of the window as soon as the voice of the council stirs into action.

    "We are very concerned in the West End that there seems to a very limited understanding amongst councillors about the impact of the TRO (Traffic Regulation Orders) process," Michael Apter, chairman of the West End Association, said.

    "It's bizarre to implement traffic measures for a tram project that has stalled. "We're of the opinion that, when implemented and enforced, the measures will have a similar effect to the CETM by dissuading people from visiting Edinburgh by any means other than bus."

    The council's bulldozer approach to implementing the new traffic plan was highlighted earlier this month when it became clear it was simply going to ignore hundreds of objections to the traffic changes, simply because they are needed to make way for the trams.

    Stance of extreme pettiness and superiority

    So, how bad are the new plans? Well they include removing the last remaining car access to Princes Street and changes at Haymarket, St Andrew Square and Leith Walk. They're bad enough, but it's the plans for Shandwick Place and Blenheim Place, off London Road, which have prompted the most opposition.

    In a stance of extreme pettiness and perceived overpowering superiority over mere motorists — those same motorists who are the live, blood and economic generators within Edinburgh — the council says opening Shandwick Place to all traffic would delay westbound trams by up to eight minutes during the morning rush hour, reducing the project's business case by £42.5 million over a 60-year period.

    Over a 60-year period that £42.5m suddenly becomes £708,000 per year; that's £13,600 a week, £1954 per day? Ok, that's a lot of money; but does a delay of eight minutes actually add up to £42.5m? Graham Birse, deputy chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, has his own concerns.

    "Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce remains a strong supporter of the tram project and we believe it is essential to see the job through — from Ocean Terminal to the airport — as the economic and social benefits are considerable," he explained.

    "However, we are concerned about the TRO process which appears too inflexible and agree with the West End Association that the proposed closure of Shandwick Place is a step too far without measures in place to support local businesses. Given the fact that there's no sign of track even being laid at the moment, there's no reason why we should not take time to reflect."

    Logic though goes completely out the window

    So far, all very reasonable, clear, logical and justifiable arguments from both Mr Birse and Mr Apter. Logic though goes completely out of the window as soon as the voice of the council stirs into action.

    "We have made many changes to the TRO proposals to address concerns raised by local residents and businesses and will continue with that approach during the next stage of the TRO process," Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, the city's transport convener, said. "We need to have the TRO powers in place to allow the tram to work effectively but are determined to minimize the impact of any changes.

    "To that end we have undertaken to carry out a further series of workshops to investigate whether any of their suggestions, or any other measures, can be put in place to minimise the impact of the changes to road layouts on their area."

    Yes, we can all sleep easy in our beds now; the council is going to 'action' a further series of workshops. More pontificating, more endless talk and more money spent; another perfect example of Edinburgh City Council in action.

    Jim McGill

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