What one policeman thinks of city traffic shake-up: 'It's crap'
THE true extent of police opposition to the city's traffic shake-up was revealed for the first time today in a series of private e-mails.
Correspondence between high-ranking police chiefs and council officials shows Lothian and Borders' transport experts were baffled by some of the controversial changes.
Sergeant Kenny Milne, a senior member of the police's traffic management section, described the junction of Shandwick Place and Queensferry Street as "crap".
He also demanded to know the justification for traffic lights on the Hanover Street roundabout, which were "creating confusion" for motorists.
But while the police force repeatedly queried the logic behind the shake-up, city development officials doggedly defended the scheme and pleaded with officers to enforce the new rules.
The Central Edinburgh Traffic Management System was finalised in October this year, but the council was forced into an embarrassing U-turn amid public outrage. The most controversial changes, including the traffic lights on Hanover Street, were done away with after just a month.
During the early stages of the scheme, many police officers even refused to fine motorists who flouted the new restrictions at a number of key junctions.
The e-mails, released to the Evening News under Freedom of Information laws, date back to June when cars were banned from travelling west on Princes Street.
Referring to the new layout in the West End, where buses and taxis can now access Queensferry Street, Sgt Milne wrote: "I had a good look at [it] and formed the opinion the set up is crap really."
In another e-mail to Andy Conway, a public realm co-ordinator with the council, Sgt Milne wrote: "Can you please advise as to the reasons for the installation of traffic signals at the junction of George Street and Hanover Street. They seem to be creating confusion in the motorists. Can they be removed?"
In many of the responses from the council, Mr Conway begged Sgt Milne to ensure police officers were catching and fining motorists breaking the rules.
The local authority has admitted that nearly 700 drivers were spotted ignoring "no entry" signs in just a one-hour period, however only 220 motorists have actually received fines as a direct result of the changes since June this year.
Mr Conway wrote: "If we don't [start enforcing the rules] now, then the scheme may be seen as being a failure."
New Town Tory councillor David Guest today said the council's unwillingness to take advice from the police was "extraordinary".
He added: "They were told by the police - who know Edinburgh's road network better than anyone - that this scheme wasn't working, but they ignored the advice. I think it is unforgivable."
Tina Woolnough, chairwoman of the Edinburgh Traffic Forum, said: "These e-mails indicate the idea of a partnership between the police and the council was a mockery."
But a police spokeswoman said the e-mails were not indicative of the force's views.
"We have worked very closely with the city council on traffic management issues," she said.
"When problems were raised, they reacted very quickly to try and address these issues and we are now monitoring the situation.
"The e-mail is the personal perception of one police officer about a particular junction in the scheme."
A council spokeswoman added: "To suggest that one e-mail from one officer about one junction is indicative of the whole of the police force's view about the whole scheme is absurd."
DAMNING MESSAGES LIFT THE LID ON DEGREE OF DISCONTENT OVER THE ROAD CHANGES
Sergeant Kenny Milne to Andy Conway, July 25 2005"Like the bad penny, we are still here surveying all that is being done under the [Central Edinburgh Traffic Management] name.
"I am forwarding this e-mail as it is about the third or fourth complaint we have had about the lights at the junction of Shandwick Place and Queensferry Street. We have tried to fob them off saying the project is not yet complete, but I don't think we can do this any longer.
"I had a good look at it and formed the opinion the set-up is crap really. There is also one or two or three or four or five other things I would like to mention. P.S. Davy and I took more traffic off the city centre's streets during G8 than CETM will ever do."
Sgt Milne to Mr Conway. July 26 2005: "Can you please advise as to the reasons for the installation of traffic signals at the junction of George Street and Hanover Street.
"They seem to be creating confusion in the motorists. Can they be removed or switched to part-time signals for peak times?"
Sgt Milne to Mr Conway, September 8 2005 "Far be it for me to stir it, here is another e-mail I have received regarding the traffic lights at the junction of George Street and Hanover Street. The lights are still a problem and the locals are getting humpty (not the Polis for a change)."
Mr Conway to Sgt Milne June 24, 2005: "The head of transport, Keith Rimmer, is very concerned that the [non]-compliance levels have increased and asked me to speak to you regarding further high visibility enforcement.
"He is concerned that if we don't do this now, then the scheme may be seen as being a failure. I know the police were keen not to book people at the moment, but you may want to review that."
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