Strife in the slow lane for cars as £2m bus lanes plan unveiled

EDINBURGH is set for even more congestion as work begins on a multi-million pound scheme to create a series of new bus lanes.

The project will see an initial 2 million spent on a range of bus priority measures in the south-east of the city in the next two years as transport bosses aim to cut journey times, increase passenger numbers and promote regeneration.

But while the move will be welcomed by bus passengers, motoring groups today accused the council of trying to "force" them on to public transport.

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The work, which is set to begin in the spring, will also add to the congestion nightmare caused by the tram roadworks.

The measures include new bus lanes along Lady Road, on Old Dalkeith Road to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and between Cameron Toll and Niddrie. There will also be new lanes at The Wisp, Liberton Road and at Newcraighall park and ride.

The idea was first explored after plans for tram line 3 to the ERI and Newcraighall were shelved following the "no" vote in 2005's road tolls referendum.

However, the measures approved this week by the council's transport committee do not include plans for a guided busway to the ERI which first emerged in 2006 and would have been similar to the stretch between Stenhouse and Broomhouse, which opened in 2004 at a cost of 14m.

Councillor Phil Wheeler, the city's transport leader, said: "The council is fully committed to encouraging social regeneration and economic growth in south-east Edinburgh.

"In order for this to become a reality, we must put in place a sustainable transport infrastructure capable of meeting the demand that will undoubtedly result from future developments in this part of the city.

"We are proposing a phased approach, generating a fully integrated transport mix, including priority bus routes, park and rides, cycle paths and, ultimately, tram line 3."

But Bruce Young, Lothian and Borders co-ordinator of the Association of British Drivers, said:

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"I really don't see how bus lanes ease congestion. I think every bus lane in the city should be reviewed and serious consideration given to the number of buses thatuse them.

"Bus lanes have become part of the council's anti-car policy. I think they were introduced to make life more difficult for motorists."

The first phase of measures, which will be funded from the council's transport budget, will now go out to public consultation. It is hoped the scheme could be finished by 2011.

Bill Campbell, Lothian Buses' operations director, said: "The proposal to create a series of bus priority measures along these major arterial routes into the city centre will be of great benefit to bus users."

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