Masterplan to transform Edinburgh city centre could see bus stops axed

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Fears have been raised about the future of the city’s bus services following the announcement of a £314m plan to reshape the city centre.

The revamp will see a series of roads closed to traffic, including Waverley Bridge, in order to cut the amount of traffic in the city centre by a third and make it more pedestrian and cycle friendly.

The 10-year city centre transformation strategy proposals drawn-up by Edinburgh City Council have been welcomed for taking action to cut air pollution in the Capital and encourage active travel.

READ MORE: Edinburgh city centre's £314m transformation plans: Everything you need to know

But plans for a cull of bus stops in order to speed up journey times and uncertainty over the number of buses which will be allowed to travel through the city centre has raised concern.

Councillor Jo Mowat, the city centre councillor for the Conservatives, has called for greater clarity of the impact of the proposals in general and their effect on residents travelling about the city.

She said: “There’s talk about a rationalisation of bus stops which seems to be a reduction in the number of bus stops, there’s no two-ways about that.”

There was “no clarity” from the City Chambers on how many stops, services and routes might be caught up in any cull, she added.

She said there was an expectation of a reduction in buses on Leith Walk as part of the original tram works but called for clarification on whether any more are at risk.

“The big question, and they’re quite disingenuous in the papers, is are they talking about any increase in that reduction of services serving Princes Street and, if they are, what are those?

“There’re plenty of pretty pictures, but I’m not one for pretty pictures, I’m more one for practical implementation.”
Cllr Mowat called for greater detail on exactly how the council intends to cut city centre traffic by nearly a third with cuts to bus services and routes “hugely controversial.”

She added: “I think people will be anxious about how they get to work and how they take weekly trips - like getting the kids to scouts or visiting family.”

Cllr Mowat was responding to the 10-year city centre transformation strategy to prioritise pedestrians and cyclists at a cost of £314m to implement in full.

READ MORE: Community calls for Edinburgh Council's LEZ to be extended to cover New Town

There were huge hold-ups on Princes Street when many of the proposed road closures were trialled during the Festivals, as many bus services were diverted.

This - alongside the plans to close Waverley Bridge to traffic - has fuelled concerns about the potential impact of the city centre transformation project on bus services.

Liberal Democrats have also raised concerns about unanswered questions in the final strategy, set to be approved by councillors on Thursday.

The party’s transport spokesperson, Cllr Kevin Lang said: “There is a lot of in this project to be welcomed, particularly the work to link up the city’s fragmented cycle network.

“However, there is still a risk that the whole transformation project is looked at in isolation from the rest of the city. It’s still not clear how traffic displacement will be addressed. It’s still not clear how north-south, or east-west bus services currently travelling through the city centre will be affected or who will operate the proposed city centre hopper bus.

“It feels like many parts of the puzzle are still missing.”

Transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said people will “have to get used” to the changes.

She added: “This is about changing the nature of our city centre so that we build resilience and opportunity in to equip the city going forward for the inevitable changes and strains that will come with increased population and other metrics.

“I know we are asking a lot of citizens, commuters and visitors because there will be change, there will be transition periods and there will be things that people have to get used to. We are asking that of people on the back of the consultation results, which have been so positive. We are asking people to embrace that change because that change is necessary.

“People might quibble with certain aspects of it, things that impinge on their individual lives, but the greater change that we are trying to bring to the city is something that I think is easily understood and I think everyone can see it.”