Canal park and ride idea floated

How the Union Canal could look as a park and ride site
How the Union Canal could look as a park and ride site
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FORGET buses – city workers could have the chance of commuting to the office by canal boat.

Talks are under way to set up the Capital’s first “boat taxi park and ride” service, which would take workers and visitors from the outskirts of the city into the centre.

Under the radical proposals, motorists would park their cars at one of the main Union Canal car parks – likely to include Ratho and Wester Hailes – then catch a barge to Fountainbridge, the beginning of the city’s main financial district.

Resident Malcolm MacLeod, 31, who lives by the canal at Polwarth, said: “I’d support any attempts like this to get more people using the canal and its towpaths – they are such an asset to Edinburgh.

“As long as commuter boats were capable of reaching decent enough speeds, I see no reason why people wouldn’t support them.”

The plans, which would see commuters float into the city centre without concerns about roadworks, are part of a series of new initiatives designed to breathe new life into the canal.

Work is currently taking place looking at the types of boats that could be used. But the success of the initiative is likely to depend on the speed the boats can get up to, as many canal barges struggle to exceed walking pace.

Katie Hughes, head of property and regeneration at British Waterways Scotland – which is investigating how the scheme would work – said: “The idea of a water taxi on the Union Canal is exciting but it is just one of a range of proposals for making the waterway a vibrant and increasingly used community asset and tourism destination.

“In terms of timing, it makes most sense to look at how we could develop this specific idea a little further down the line when some of the other proposed improvements are under way and the canal and towpath are more animated than ever.”

Other measures to be considered include a new “code of conduct” for dog walkers, cyclists and pedestrians who use the towpath.

Speeding cyclists are often criticised by canal users and one proposal would see traffic calming measures introduced, including speed bumps and speed limit signs. Any experienced “commuting cyclists” would be encouraged to use adjacent roads instead of the towpath.

A major watersports centre is also proposed for Meggetland, including the creation of a slalom for canoes.

Councillor Tim McKay, Edinburgh’s “canal champion”, said: “The Union Canal is one of Edinburgh’s hidden gems.

“The idea for a boat taxi park and ride service is one of a number of proposals in the strategy we are keen to take forward in consultation with the local community.”

The strategy is expected to be signed off by councillors tomorrow.

Pentland Hills councillor Ricky Henderson is not convinced the park and ride scheme will be a hit.

He said: “I think you would be quicker taking the bus.

“It is an imaginative idea, but I think they [canal boats] only go at about two miles per hour so people walking on the bank can go faster.

“But there are a lot of good people doing a lot of good work on this and it is a good idea that is worthy of further exploration because there could be a lot of practical issues.

“I’d be interested to hear what sort of reaction it would get from potential commuters.”