Cars face ban from Edinburgh streets during Festival

Street performers in a traffic-free  Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Street performers in a traffic-free Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Widespread street closures during the Edinburgh Festival are being considered to ease congestion and improve pedestrian safety.

The city council is examining proposals to shut city centre roads to vehicles to give Festival-goers more space.

Pedestrians’ campaign group Living Streets is concerned that narrow pavements are becoming overcrowded, particularly in the Old Town, which hosts many Fringe venues.

Streets that could be part of the traffic ban include the Cowgate, which is already shut at night because of the number of nearby nightclubs. Others could include George IV Bridge.

The Edinburgh Festival and Fringe have grown significantly in recent years, with a record of nearly 2.3 million tickets sold for Fringe shows this year, 5 per cent up on 2014.

The number of Fringe venues has also grown by one quarter to 313 over the last seven years.

Further pressure on the streets came this year from the Official and Fringe festivals running over the same period for the first time for almost 20 years.

Living Streets Scotland director Stuart Hay said streets had been closed and extra park-and-ride launched opened during last year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, which attracted similar numbers as to the Edinburgh Festival.

He said: “Living Streets Edinburgh would like to ask that the council formally considers the widespread closure of streets during next summer’s festival season.

“This year, many of our members noted how many city centre pavements were so crowded - especially in the Old Town - that they were not only uncomfortable, but also felt unsafe.

“In addition, bus timetables became highly unreliable. City council transport convener Lesley Hinds said officials were investigating the plans.

She said: “This is an interesting proposal. Streets during the Festival can become quite busy, especially around venues in the Old Town and south side.

“I have asked officers to look at areas where there are particular problems and where closures could be considered.

“Edinburgh is a very walkable city and we want to make it even more attractive.”