City centre road closures as New Year party begins

THE Capital is getting ready for Hogmanay, with road closures and restrictions set to be put in place across the city centre as the four-day celebrations get under way.

Events kick-off tonight, with thousands expected to join the Torchlight Procession along Princes Street to Calton Hill.

Part of Market Street will be closed until January 5 to allow a funfair to be set up, but the majority of closures will not come into effect until 6pm on Friday. Then stewards will move in to shut off the roads around Princes Street, George Street and the surrounding area to create the huge street party enclosure.

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Princes Street will also be closed to pedestrians - except those with tickets of course.

There will also be parking restrictions in place across the city centre on Friday and Saturday, in order to keep diversion routes clear. Warning signs will be put in place on major access routes to the city centre to ensure drivers are aware of closure details.

The council, Lothian and Borders Police, NHS Lothian, G4S Events and the Met Office all offered advice to help revellers celebrate New Year safely.

After the worst winter for more than 40 years there will be relief at the forecast, which says the big night will be dry, if a little chilly.

Jim Watson, public weather service adviser for the Met Office, said: "It should stay predominantly dry but cloudy, with temperatures staying above zero and a light, easterly wind."

Councillor Steve Cardownie, festivals and events champion for the city council, said: "Revellers at the Street Party are bound to have a great time, provided they use their common sense. We'd also encourage them to heed the advice from police and stewards, who will be working extremely hard on the night to make sure everyone enjoys themselves safely."Bring any New Year cheer in plastic containers, dress warmly, have fun but be sensible and remember to drink responsibly, look after yourself and your friends and help us bring in 2011 in spectacular fashion at the best New Year's celebrations in the world."

Travellers are reminded to plan Hogmanay journeys in advance, with reduced and altered rail services.

ScotRail will be introducing later services on New Year's Eve, while Lothian Buses will run a free service throughout the early hours of January 1.

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Transport Minister Keith Brown said: "With the changes to services we would ask everyone to be vigilant and ensure a safe and happy end to the festivities, planning both their outward and homebound journeys prior to heading out."

The celebrations start tonight at the specially renamed Resolution Square on Mound Precinct, from 5pm to 9pm, featuring music by Aidan O'Rourke and Brian Kellock.

Afterwards the annual Torchlight Procession will leave from Parliament Square at 6.30pm, heading down The Mound, Princes Street, Waterloo Place and finishing with a firework display on Calton Hill.