TRAFFIC is set to return to Princes Street from the end of November after plans to trial pedestrianisation were dumped.
The street will be opened again to buses, taxis and cycles from the weekend of 28 November once work to lay the city's first set of tram tracks has been completed.
Council bosses had planned to keep the street closed to traffic over the festive period, but are now ready to reverse their decision after beleaguered retailers called for buses to return to the street.
A feasibility study looking into plans to permanently pedestrianise Princes Street is currently being compiled for the council, and transport bosses had seen Christmas as a perfect opportunity to test the proposed arrangements. However, while retailers agreed an extended programme of events on the street would attract more visitors, it was believed the reintroduction of buses would provide a vital shot in the arm in the run-up to the busiest time of the year for the Capital's shops.
While likely to be seen as a missed opportunity by some, the council's decision was today welcomed by the city's retailers and business leaders. The council said the majority of retailers on George Street – where the majority of buses have been diverted – had also welcomed the move.
Gordon Drummond, general manager of Edinburgh's Harvey Nichols, commented: "I am very pleased that the city centre will return to normal for Christmas and we will be able to market Edinburgh as being open for business.
"It is important that people can take buses and taxis along Princes Street and all shops will be back to normal for Christmas shopping."
Graham Birse, deputy chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said traders had been "desperate for a fair run" at the Christmas market after suffering months of disruption.
He added: "This is definitely not the time to experiment with a pedestrian-only Princes Street. With its wide pavements and fantastic views, Princes Street will rapidly regain its popularity once restored to an open and accessible thoroughfare."
The festive period is the busiest time of the year for the city's shops, with Christmas and New Year accounting for 30 per cent of annual turnover.
The council said it was continuing to work with tram firm TIE to ensure access can be maintained to East Princes Street Gardens during the Winter Festivals programme. And it confirmed the size of this year's Hogmanay street party is to be scaled back from the usual 100,000 visitors to 75,000. An estimated 80,000 will need to be spent on a series of temporary traffic measures to remove traffic from Princes Street during the street party. The launch of the Christmas celebrations, including the unveiling of Winter Wonderland and the giant ferris wheel, will also be put back.
Council leader Jenny Dawe, said: "We recognise that the Christmas and New Year period is a critical time of year for traders and have acknowledged, and acted upon, their strong desire for bus traffic to be re-instated to Princes Street at the end of November."
TIE'S director of customer services and communications Mandy Haeburn-Little said: "We are pleased to be handing Princes Street back to the city in time for the Christmas shopping period and the exciting programme of Winter Festivals.
"Demonstrating respect for the city is very important to us. We are keen to say thank you in a real way to the retailers and people of Edinburgh for the disruption which they have experienced."