Leader comment: Investment needed to get cities moving

Slow driving speeds are only one part of the problem as Edinburgh and Glasgow grapple with growth

A report shows Edinburgh has the third slowest commute in the UK behind London and Manchester. Picture: Jane Barlow

A new report has found that Edinburgh is one of the slowest cities in the UK in which to drive. Average speeds within a one-mile radius of the city centre are just 6.64mph, putting Scotland’s capital behind only London and Manchester in a UK speed table.

In Glasgow, speeds are only fractionally higher at 6.84mph, having dropped from 8.56mph a year ago.

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While the study will doubtless prompt many people to ask why Edinburgh City Council bothered introducing 20mph limits, the wider issue for both of major cities is that gridlock in and around our cities is bad for the economy and for pollution levels.

Edinburgh has unique problems: a castle in the centre of the city forces traffic around it and our historic city centre – with sometimes narrow, cobbled streets – is less than ideal for cars and buses.

But even within a five-mile radius of the centre of the capital, which reaches to outlying areas such as Hillend and Newcraighall as well as parts of the City Bypass, commuters are still facing typical speeds of just 12.38mph.

The wider problem for Edinburgh is that the city’s population is growing. There is a need for more housing and much of this is being built in East, West and Midlothian. The majority of these people then commute into the city daily, extending the rush hour and making travel more painful for all.

Edinburgh’s Trams were pilloried by many but the notion of a forward planned public transportation system is sound. Fast, reliable alternatives to the private car are necessary and the extended line down Leith Walk should help with this.

The Borders Railway, with stops in Midlothian, should be of benefit, while investing in safer and easier cycling and walking routes is also key. That’s the carrot.

The stick in Edinburgh was supposed to be a congestion charging scheme that would raise millions of pounds in additional revenue to help pay for improvements, but that was roundly rejected by Capital residents.

Expensive options, therefore, are more limited.

But sitting and waiting for speeds to drop even further will harm business, the wider economy and make the lives of residents in Edinburgh and Glasgow even more difficult.

Connectivity is the key in the 21st century – whether via fibre or road.

We must invest in both now to keep our cities moving.