PRINCES Street will reopen fully to buses, taxis and cycles from midnight tonight as the last of the tram works affecting the Capital’s most famous thoroughfare are removed.
Motorists will now be diverted via St Andrew Square, Princes Street and Leith Street, cutting the level of traffic which has been routed through narrow New Town streets since early summer.
Council chiefs said returning Princes Street to normal in time for the busy pre- Christmas shopping period would be a big boost.
Most of Princes Street reopened in September, but tram works have continued at the junction with South St Andrew Street, forcing buses to pass in single file, controlled by temporary traffic lights.
The removal of these works means Princes Street will be free of tram works and traffic closures for the first time since September last year.
Transport convener Lesley Hinds said: “The full reopening of Princes Street is a major milestone for the project and will help traffic flow more smoothly.
“Christmas is an extremely important part of the year for businesses and the council, along with traders, are looking at ways to maximise footfall all across the city centre.”
There was an outcry in July when it was revealed that the closure of York Place meant up to 1000 cars, taxis and HGVs per hour would be diverted along Broughton Street, Albany Street and Abercromby Place.
Now that will no longer be the official diversion route, with both east and westbound traffic signed to drive via Queen Street, North St David Street, South St David Street, Princes Street and Leith Street.
Joanna Mowat, left, city centre councillor and Tory transport spokeswoman, said: “This will be hugely welcomed. York Place will still be dug up and people will still be able to take the route through these New Town streets, but now there will be an alternative as well.
“Hopefully people will begin to use the new route and it will be much quieter for residents.”
Businesses welcomed the end of the tram works in the city’s busiest shopping street.
David Birrell, chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: “Opening up Princes Street at such a critical time is welcome news and a great opportunity to enjoy our Christmas fair and markets.”
Bus stops outside Princes Mall are due to be reinstated for both east and westbound buses by early next month.
Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “This is a timely boost for retailers in the East End and will see improved public transport services and overall help to reduce delays.
“This is further encouraging evidence of the significant progress being made.”