Comment: Traffic plan is a road to more upheaval

Terry Murden. Picture: TSPL
Terry Murden. Picture: TSPL
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AS IF the disruption caused by the tramworks is not enough, a new battle is under way in Edinburgh over 
further upheaval.

The city council, one way or another, is determined to change the way the capital goes about its business and wants to introduce a 12-month trial affecting the broader transport network that will have wide-ranging consequences.

The plans will introduce more pedestrianisation, a one-way traffic system and encourage more cycling. It will entail diversion of buses and more restrictions on general traffic.

But the Build a Vision for the City Centre project hardly won ringing endorsement from the 2,000 people questioned in a survey. Most were sceptical and some seriously opposed.

Meetings have been taking place and worried shop owners and others running businesses in the city fear the changes will drive customers away. It now looks like the plan has been put on hold.

David Birrell, chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, says a key measure for retailers is footfall and he will be warning the council that if it falls significantly in the early months of the trial there will be calls for it to be abandoned before there is further damage.

Change is always a concern, and this proposal will affect commuters, shoppers and tourists alike. Edinburgh has one of the best bus services in Britain, so the council should be wary of too much meddling. The tram, however, introduces a new dynamic and this is an opportunity to integrate buses and trams with trains, private motorists and cyclists on a city-wide basis, not just around the central area.

More dedicated cycle routes should be encouraged, but only if they are banned from main arteries where they are a danger to cyclists and motorists alike. Nor should they be introduced in ways that inhibit other traffic. It would be a worry if the council devoted too much resource to a pro-cycling campaign verging on bullying us all on to two wheels against our will.

Making the city more pedestrian-friendly should not in itself be damaging. It works for Rose Street and in the shopping malls; it works in Glasgow’s z-zone of Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street and Arygle Street.

But there has to be nearby car parking to compensate for the reduction in access, and in central Edinburgh it is not easy to determine where that should be. How about an underground car park in George Street? Or does that mean more disruption?

Banks caught in the crossfire over lending

the war of words over lending to businesses shows no sign of abating. Yet another report published yesterday showed it falling again and pointing to the failure of the UK government’s flagship scheme designed to provide cheap money for the banks to pass on to customers.

The banks, however, say they are not only continuing to lend, but are increasing lending. So what is going on?

It seems to be largely down to how the figures are counted. The banks are reducing their exposure to toxic loans to clean up their balance sheets. But these loans are included in the overall figures.

The banks face a tough battle on this issue. They argue that demand has fallen and that they are desperate to lend. Businesses and politicians say the money is not being made available. As usual, the truth probably lies buried between the two.