Drivers granted Shandwick Place return 'within weeks'

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MOTORISTS are to be allowed back on to Shandwick Place within weeks after restrictions were eased due to the current suspension of tram works.

&#149 Westbound traffic will be able to turn left from Lothian Road on to West End thoroughfare

The city council is set to approve 5000 worth of measures which will allow westbound traffic to turn left into the street from Lothian Road.

Shandwick Place has been closed to cars since work to move underground pipes and cables started in March 2008.

But with no immediate breakthrough expected in the dispute between tram firm TIE and Bilfinger Berger, the decision has been taken to reopen the road to general traffic.

Transport chiefs are also set to look at the timing of traffic lights at pedestrian crossings on the junction of Princes Street and Lothian Road.

They have ruled out allowing general traffic to access Shandwick Place from Princes Street, though, claiming it would cause "excessive queuing".

Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, the city's transport convener, said: "I am pleased that general traffic will be able to use this left-hand turn in future, if only on a temporary basis.

"We will, of course, be monitoring the change moving forward to ensure that traffic continues to flow freely at this junction."

The city council has already approved measures which will see all traffic other than trams and buses permanently banned from Shandwick Place once the trams are up and running.

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.

Traders in the West End have claimed the move will prove to be a "disaster" for their businesses, while residents on surrounding streets have said the traffic changes will lead to raised pollution levels as more cars use their streets.

The council agreed to set up a series of "workshops" with local residents amid concerns about raised pollution levels.

Homeowner Allan Alstead said: "One factor that must not be lost sight of is that the West End residents and traders only got the offer of these workshops because we are the first, relatively small area, to actually experience this emptying of the main roads.

"Remember that the council's own projections about the tram project showed over 134,000 households would experience what we are the first to see in reality - an increase in traffic bringing steep increases in pollution.

"The fact is that we are simply the first few of tens of thousands of people who can expect to see the same thing happening outside their homes."

The council has said its own analysis has shown the traffic plans are unlikely to impact on air quality, a position it says is backed by experts at Edinburgh University. It says levels of nitrogen dioxide in Great Stuart Street since July 2009 are below EU limits.