Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Council reveals £314m overhaul of Edinburgh centre

George IV Bridge Image copyright City of Edinburgh Council
Image caption George IV Bridge will have cycle lanes and more space for pedestrians

A transformation of Edinburgh city centre's roads has been revealed in a £314m 10-year plan.

The overhaul will give priority to pedestrians and cyclists and see many key streets closed to traffic.

It includes ambitious cycling infrastructure projects, a trial of a city "hopper" bus and car-free streets in the Old Town.

The Edinburgh City Centre Transformation document will be considered by councillors on Thursday.

The strategy has been published after about 80% of locals backed the vision in the second round of public consultation.

High Street closed

As part of the strategy, Cockburn Street, Forrest Road, Victoria Street, Waverley Bridge and Lawnmarket will close to traffic - while Bank Street will be shut except for buses and taxis and Candlemaker Row will only be open to buses.

The High Street is also set to be closed to traffic between North Bridge and St Mary's Street.

The strategy also includes proposals for "reallocation of traffic lanes" on a host of streets including Cowgate, the Bridges corridor, Lothian Road, St Andrew Square and Princes Street.

Image copyright City of Edinburgh Council
Image caption Forrest Road will close to traffic completely

Phase one of the project would take place over the next five years, including the closure of Waverley Bridge in conjunction with Network Rail's Waverley Masterplan.

However, more than £300m will need to be found for the final phase of the strategy, which includes creating a tree-lined boulevard on Lothian Road, integrated public transport ticketing and timetabling and a new cycling and walking bridge linking Old Town and New Town.

Officials say that the project could potentially generate £420m of "quantifiable benefits" based on £314.6m of investment.

'Head in the stars, feet on the ground'

Proposals for a city centre tram "spur link" to join up a network if the line is extended north to south in the future has not officially been included in the proposals, but space has been left if plans are progressed.

Project director Daisy Narayanan said the vision had "a head in the stars, feet on the ground approach".

She said: "Phase one of the project we have funding for already, phase two is feasibility studies which we are hoping to have about £1.5m for and phase three is £310m capital and £4m of revenue - it's a very cautious figure. It's making sure the delivery plan is rooted in reality and we can deliver it.

Image copyright City of Edinburgh Council
Image caption The bottom of The Mound has a two-way cycle lane

"If and when tram line three happens, the business case should include the spur line. As a city centre, we think that spur is necessary. It's not part of the costs, but if there is a tram line three, it is future-proofing the city centre."

Under the plans, the city centre would feel more welcoming to pedestrians.

Footpaths will be widened on key walking routes - with traffic lanes removed to make way. A pedestrian priority zone would be created in the city centre "where people have priority and vehicles are guests".

The strategy also points to a "reduced volume of buses crossing the city centre without a loss in the routes served" - while bus journeys will be speeded up "through signal prioritisation and bus-stop rationalisation".

Transport and environment convener Lesley Macinnes, said: "This is broadly what we think we will be doing across 10 years. A big part of that is laying out a programme of delivery for 10 years and our funding strategy. We are building a degree of flexibility into that.

Image copyright City of Edinburgh Council
Image caption People and cycles have priority at George IV Bridge at Bedlam Theatre

"We really are attempting to do this in as comprehensive, informed and intelligent way to make sure we end up delivering the right thing at the right time. Everybody is moving in the same direction - we would be a foolish city if we turned around and headed back down the other side of the motorway.

"The principle of a north-south tram link is clear. But how we deliver it is based on all sorts of aspects of parliamentary legislation, our ability to purchase bits of land. There's an awful long way to us saying this is the form that north-south link would take and where it would go. There's a lot of conversation to happen."

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