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As I See It

Edinburgh: a transport shambles in the making

Terry smiling headFigures showing Edinburgh’s recently-opened Gateway rail station is attracting only a third of the expected passengers provide further proof of a growing shambles of a transport strategy in the city.

Over-budgeted trams, ludicrous 20mph speed limits, half-baked cycling policies….now this.

I’ve been once to the £41m (original budget: £24m) Gateway rail station located at Gogar, and on arrival I thought it was closed. The only sign of life was a uniformed man standing on the concourse with his arms folded, and a woman in the ticket office.

“It gets busy in the morning and evening, mainly people commuting to work at the Gyle and Gogarburn,” said the man, unconvincingly.

Other than that, it seems few passengers are making use of the facilities. There was a solitary car in the car park. The silent bicycle racks were undisturbed.

This is turning into another scandalous waste of public money. The tram will fail to convince a lot of people, whatever its backers say, while the inability to repair severely damaged roads, and the utterly pointless 20 mph speed limit policy are merely adding to the city’s worsening reputation for transport.

Instead of building a rail station at the airport to serve travellers from Perth, Dundee and Fife, it has been built a couple of miles away, requiring travellers to hop off and on to the tram.

It might have made some sense if trains serving Gateway station also connected to the main Edinburgh-Glasgow line. They don’t.

There is already one badly-served station at Edinburgh Park, which was blighted for years because few services stopped there, so perhaps we should have expected the worst from the new one.

The council is now installing 20mph speed limit signs everywhere. The signs are a blight on the environment, cluttering street corners, and it’s plain to see from passing cars that no one takes any notice.

Next up will be the cycling lobby with their policies aimed at making cycling safer. Well, no one can argue with that, except they are making daft demands.

What is they want? Fewer cars on roads in city centres and penalties for drivers using cycle lanes for driving, stopping and parking.

Someone should remind the cyclists that roads are for cars and that motorists and delivery vehicles have to park, stop, load, unload, etc. That often means parking on ill-positioned, often rarely-used cycle lanes.

Cities which have succeeded with cycling policies have taken a holistic view. Amsterdam, for instance, has roads with dedicated cycle ways. In the main cars and bicycles stick go their own way. It works. And there are barely any traffic hold-ups.

Cycling should not be made safer on main roads, it should be banned from main roads. Bicycles and cars do not mix, but banning cars is not the answer. Cycling is not allowed on motorways, for good reason. The rule should apply to trunk roads and busy thoroughfares.

A good example of how Edinburgh has once again made a mess of this can be seen in Leith Walk where the pavements were widened and the road narrowed. Cycle lanes were installed, making the road even narrower.

What do the cyclists do? Of course, they ride on the newly-widened pavements. It’s illegal, and dangerous to pedestrians, but no one stops them.

In any case, why would cyclists risk their lives on a road heaving with buses and cars ignoring the 20mph speed limit, and where drivers double park on the new cycle lanes because no one thought to provide enough parking spaces to allow local businesses to load and unload?

Why didn’t the council create a proper two-way cycle “road” the full length of the street instead of laying paving which is, quite pointlessly, 15-20 yards wide in places?

Oh, and before I forget, the whole road is likely to be dug up again to install the tram line extension.

There are similar plans for cycle lanes in Murrayfield where local traders are furious about the affect it will have on trade.

Edinburgh has one of the most efficient bus operators in the country, but someone needs to get a grip of these latest failures before more damage is done.  Public money is being wasted and risks making the city a laughing stock.



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