Opinion: Edinburgh has the worst traffic congestion in the UK, it’s time for change

Edinburgh’s traffic congestion peaks during the Fringe and festive season (Credit: EN4 News)

It’s been less than four months since the calamitous mess of traffic congestion that was unleashed upon Edinburgh by the wrath of the Fringe, and now as the festive period is underway, very little has changed.

This year’s Fringe was the busiest the Scottish capital has ever experienced, with the Fringe website said that ‘three million tickets’ were issued alone in 2019.

The festival brought the city’s transportation network to its absolute limit with the Commercial Director of Lothian Buses, Nigel Serafini, admitting their services had been “operating in much more challenging conditions” than they had ever previously experienced.

Now the festive season is here, and it looks to bring gifts of delays, congestion, and packed buses.

At least the Christmas market is here for you to wander around when you are inevitably stranded on Princes Street.

An article by the Herald this year, explained that analysis by the sat nav manufacturer TomTom showed that Edinburgh rush hour takes 40% longer than the rest of the UK.

This gives Edinburgh the prized crown of being the worst UK city for traffic jams.

Now I have to make this point clear, this is not the fault of Lothian Buses by any means.

Instead, this is the repercussions of an ongoing issue that has some work put forward to fixing it.

It is showing that efforts by the council simply are not sufficient when coping with a mass influx of people.

Edinburgh Council’s transport strategy states: “Public transport plays an essential role in the life of Edinburgh. It enables access to employment, health care, education and leisure opportunities. Its efficient use of road space and fuel helps to reduce congestion and carbon dioxide emissions.”

It begs the question; how can you possibly expect to reduce carbon dioxide emissions when there has not been enough to reduce congestion?

Mr Serafini makes various points which are reasonable solutions to congestion problems.

He says: “We would also like to see a reduction in bus stops in some locations, for example, consolidating two bus stops into one central stop.”

We see this example on Princes Street all the time and even at the foot of Lothian Road, two bus stops in close proximity to each other when it is really not essential.

Mr Sefafini continues, “We then need to look at who and what has priority in the streets which remain open.”

This is a crucial point the council needs to address if we are ever going to see change.

If the same flow of traffic is allowed into a highly concentrated population of people over an intensely busy period of time, we will never see any change.

As the years go by, it is becoming increasingly frustrating to live within the city when the Fringe is on and when Christmas is approaching.

These should be times where the people should be excited and welcoming to these events without their lives being disrupted.

Instead, we are already seeing the effects of the festive period squeezing the city into a state of a “rush hour” paralysis that lasts two months.

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