Edinburgh roads ‘among worst in Europe’

Prof Docherty says Edinburgh's roads are among the worst in Europe. Picture: Greg Macvean
Prof Docherty says Edinburgh's roads are among the worst in Europe. Picture: Greg Macvean
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ONE of Scotland’s top transport academics has called for greater investment in Edinburgh’s “very poor” roads – warning that we are falling far behind many similar European cities.

Professor Iain Docherty, from the University of Glasgow, said potholes, cracked pavements and cycling facilities are overlooked across the Capital at the expense of large infrastructure projects.

Iain Docherty

Iain Docherty

The former non-executive director of Transport Scotland delivered his scathing verdict following a visit to the spring meeting of cycle campaign group Spokes.

Prof Docherty said Edinburgh compared poorly with similar-sized European cities such as Zurich when it came to the standard of its general streetscape.

He said: “All of those types of things tend to get downgraded and we focus on building new things when we should probably maintain what we’ve got better. The condition of roads is getting to North American ­levels of poor.

“I think we should be spending more money on the quality of our streets and streetscape and local places because these are things people use a lot and they have a huge economic value to the local economy. I think that the physical quality of Edinburgh’s streets and streetscape is very poor in comparison with the other European cities you like to compare yourselves to.

“Zurich is a small city that Edinburgh politicians love to talk about because it’s a bit of a role model . . . you would experience a completely different quality of physical environment to 
what you get in Edinburgh. That’s true in most Germanic cities and increasingly in lots of French cities and Scandinavia because they’ve spent huge amounts of money on the quality of their public spaces in recent years.”

A survey last month by the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland showed 36.2 per cent of non-trunk roads were poor.

Neil Greig, policy director for the Institute of Advanced Motorists, named the West Approach Road as one of the city’s worst streets for potholes.

He said: “In Scotland and Edinburgh, we still tend to invest less in road transport than our European partners. The outcome of that is we have problems with potholes, we’ve got big backlogs of road ­maintenance in Edinburgh.

“We’ve had very few road improvements in Edinburgh over the last few years, if any. We’ve had tinkering around the edges with technology and traffic management type things, but we don’t see the investment in things like ring roads that are standard practice in European cities.”

Mr Greig said projects such as the £1 billion Forth replacement crossing were eating up resources that could be spread better to improve conditions for Edinburgh drivers.

He said: “Even simple things like making sure the white lines are painted regularly, seeing to potholes, improving junctions – there’s lots of little schemes out there that aren’t very sexy, but when you put them together probably bring greater benefit than building a new Forth road bridge.”

Prof Docherty said recent trends showing traffic levels falling, particularly in dense cities such as Edinburgh, meant spending priorities on roads should be reconsidered.

A report by the RAC Foundation released in November last year found men aged 20 to 50 were reducing their driving compared to previous generations. Edinburgh City Council is investing an extra £12 million into roads and pavements this financial year.

City should copy zurich plan

AROUND 70 per cent of visitors to Switzerland’s largest city – Zurich – use the tram or bus, with about half of the journeys within the municipality taking place on public transport.

A government scheme in the 1970s and ‘80s aimed to speed up public transport. It included creating car-free routes at intersections with fixed tracks and bus lanes.

Parking on tram roads were removed and public transport got priority at traffic lights.