MAJOR road repair schemes across the city are to be put on hold to avoid causing even more chaos on top of the tram works.
Council chiefs say if they pressed ahead with the work scheduled for some of the Capital’s busiest roads while construction of the tram line is still under way, it would cause too much congestion for motorists and fuel frustration.
Five major schemes for resurfacing stretches of main arterial routes, including Old Dalkeith Road, Queensferry Road, Corstorphine Road and Lanark Road, will now be postponed for at least a year.
Instead, smaller repair projects in residential areas, which were programmed for future years, will be brought forward.
The move was broadly welcomed, but opposition councillors said there was a lot of work needing done on the city’s roads and warned it could not be postponed forever.
Transport convener Lesley Hinds said: “One of the biggest complaints people have is the need to keep the city moving and their frustration at all the roadworks.
“There was work scheduled to be carried out on the main arterial routes into the city, such as Old Dalkeith Road, but we are proposing deferring these for a year or two to give city residents a break. With tram works still ongoing we have decided that the congestion as a result would be too great.
“Instead, we will be bringing forward a new programme of works to repair roads and pavements in communities and neighbourhoods. In some cases, such as in Easter Drylaw in north Edinburgh, repairs to the roads were not due until 2017, so we’re pleased to be able to bring them forward and get started on these works from April.”
She said a lot of the roadworks associated with the trams were due to come to an end next year and long-suffering residents deserved a break from disruption.
The five schemes being postponed were among a tranche of repair projects which had previously been delayed because of the tramworks, but were scheduled to go ahead from April next year as part of the council’s £13.9 million road and footway capital investment programme for 2013-14.
However, officials were ordered to carry out an assessment of the condition of the roads involved in each of the schemes to decide whether the resurfacing was essential.
Cllr Hinds said: “We said if they had to be done next year they would go ahead, but if they would last another two or three years let’s leave them and we will bring some more residential streets into the programme.”
She said officials had carried out a review of the five routes being deferred and decided they were in good enough condition to last another year at least.
Liberal Democrat councillor Robert Aldridge supported the decision to delay works while the tram construction was still under way. “It’s sensible to make sure traffic can get around the city,” he said. “But it’s important they are only deferred and not postponed indefinitely.
“I remember at the election Cllr Hinds was talking about no major roadworks for two years after the tram work is completed. I think that would be a big mistake, There is a lot of serious work needing done.”
Green transport spokesman Nigel Bagshaw said delaying the resurfacing projects in order to avoid more disruption made sense.
He said: “If you dig everything up at the same time, the whole city grinds to a halt.”
Tory transport spokeswoman Joanna Mowat said there had been under-investment in the city’s roads for years and warned against prolonged delay.
She said: “I think the people of Edinburgh would like us to get these works done as soon as possible.
“Our roads have not been looked after properly for the past 30 years and we are forever playing catch-up.
“Unfortunately the tramworks have become a fact of life which we’re all having to live with. Here, the issue is more about maintaining good access into the city. It is always sensible to look at phasing and you don’t want five major roads out at once. But if you shove them all into next financial year, do we not then have the same problem, only minus the tramworks?
“If you leave a road, it is going to deteriorate further.
“There may be an argument for doing some of them next financial year and some the year after.”
John Lauder, director of campaign group Sustrans Scotland, said cyclists suffered from potholes more than most road-users. But he said: “I have every sympathy with the position the council are in. I’m quite pleased they have put the works on hold.” He argued the council ought to look again at their plans for the roads and give more space to cyclists.
Cllr Hinds said during the election campaign earlier this year that she would like to see a moratorium on major transport works for two years after the completion of the tram project to give residents a break from roadworks.
Today she said some work would inevitably need to be done, but she wanted improve the management and co-ordination of roadworks to keep disruption to a minimum.
She said: “I will be challenging officials about whether the roads really need to be done. There will be main roads which do need repaired because they are in such poor condition. But we should be managing roadworks on an area by area basis to keep the city moving.”