Environmentalists demand £120m Edinburgh City Bypass plans be scrapped

Plans to build a flyover at Sheriffhall roundabout have been deemed a 'waste of money' by environmentalists.
Plans to build a flyover at Sheriffhall roundabout have been deemed a 'waste of money' by environmentalists.
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Sheriffhall flyover proposal rubbished by environmentalists

Environmental campaigners are calling for £120 million plans to build a flyover over a congested roundabout to be scrapped – and money diverted to tackle the climate emergency and invest in sustainable transport.

Transport Scotland unveiled proposals to build a flyover at the Sheriffhall roundabout on the A720 City Bypass in 2017 as part of Edinburgh’s £1bn City Region Deal. Consultation events were held earlier this month after draft orders were published to push the project ahead.

Highways chiefs say the flyover will tackle congestion and delays on the City Bypass – but environmental campaigners believe the investment will do nothing to help the Capital achieve its commitment of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s air pollution campaigner, Gavin Thomson, said: “This bypass will be a huge waste of money. It will cause more air pollution, more climate emissions, and more traffic. New roads create new journeys – they do not stop congestion.

“With Edinburgh Council aiming to be carbon neutral by 2030, this bypass is the wrong decision. Road transport is one of our biggest emitters. We need investment in our public transport and on walking and cycling. To put this £120m in perspective, Edinburgh Council spent £2.4m on cycling projects in the last year. It would take the council 50 years, at this current rate, to spend as much on cycling as they are planning to spend on this one new road.

“Instead of expensive mistakes which will increase traffic, the council needs to act to reduce car use. This should include things like a congestion charge for Edinburgh, closing some streets to private cars, expanding the city’s cycle network and making public transport cheaper. We urge the council and Scottish Government to halt these wasteful plans and invest in sustainable transport for Edinburgh.”

At the last meeting of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal Committee, the leader of the City of Edinburgh Council, Cllr Adam McVey, quizzed Transport Scotland officials over whether cycling and walking facilities, as well as improved bus access, was being considered in the plans.

Transport Scotland’s Sandie Jamieson said: “The fundamental change is what we call grade separated, so it’s segregated access from both the A7 and A6106 on both sides through the bypass without any crossings required.”

Transport chiefs also confirmed that no proposals to prioritise buses were part of the current project – but plans could be integrated into the overhaul in the future.

Cllr McVey said: “I look forward to Transport Scotland presenting these plans in more detail. What’s clear is that Sheriffhall isn’t working for anyone right now and this Scottish Government funded project allows us to make it work better.

“This cannot be simply about increasing capacity for private car travel, which would undermine our effort in tacking climate change.”

He added: “The chance to use this as an opportunity to support modal shift from people driving from outside of the Capital with significant enhancement of public transport serving our region’s communities shouldn’t be underestimated.”