Bold plans proposed for Edinburgh’s city centre and key transport corridors

Bold plans proposed for Edinburgh’s city centre and key transport corridors

Artist's impression of Canongate following the implementation of Edinburgh city centre measures

An approach to the future design of Edinburgh’s streets to create a more connected, welcoming environment has been published for consideration by councillors.

Our Future Streets – a circulation plan for Edinburgh, will be debated at the local authority’s Transport and Environment Committee on Thursday. It sets out an approach to how space is allocated on the city’s streets, focusing on neighbourhoods, key transport corridors and the city centre. This will help to deliver the aims and objectives of the City Mobility Plan (CMP), which envisions sustainable, safe and effective movement of people and goods around Edinburgh.

As part of Our Future Streets, the Street Allocation Framework (SAF) presents a series of principles for delivering these aims and would form the starting point for the design of all future street projects. Defined principles and a set of indicative maps will help to achieve a better balance for demands on space in any prospective projects, prioritising better walking/wheeling, cycling, public transport and places for everyone. The process also considers how to deliver a clear and coherent network for general traffic. The Framework would be incorporated into the development of schemes, alongside stakeholder engagement, public consultation and design appraisal.

Under this place-based approach, the report also recommends taking Edinburgh City Centre Transformation (ECCT) further to reduce vehicle dominance, improving conditions for pedestrians and placemaking while contributing to the city’s ambition to reduce car kms travelled by 30% by 2030.

Four options for achieving this have been considered. The favoured option reflects existing ECCT plans with two key additions: removal of through-traffic from the North and South Bridges corridor – complementing the Granton to BioQuarter tram proposals - and removing through-traffic from the Cowgate and Canongate. To help explore the changes an experimental closure of the Cowgate to some or all through-traffic is proposed for late 2024. The findings of this trial would help shape plans for further work towards implementing changes to reduce through-traffic across the city centre.

Bold plans proposed for Edinburgh’s city centre and key transport corridors

Artist's impression of Market Street

All future proposals will be informed by an emerging Operations Plan, which will make sure accessibility is at the heart of development work. The plan will ensure any servicing and loading changes support businesses and that local access to the city centre by car is maintained.

Councillor Scott Arthur, Transport and Environment convener, said: “We’re lucky to live in a beautiful, historic city, and Edinburgh’s rapidly increasing population is testament to that. But as our city continues to grow, so too do the challenges posed by congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions.

“We need to be bold and move faster if we are to support the people who live, work and visit here to move around the capital sustainably and safely, while protecting Edinburgh’s unique heritage. By making it easier to walk, wheel, cycle and use public transport we can create better, healthier transport links, supporting net zero 2030 goals and helping to drive down car kms travelled.

“I know that many people in Edinburgh can’t afford a car or are not able to drive - making it easier for these residents to move around Edinburgh is at the heart of these plans.

“We’ve learnt lessons form progressive cities around the world who are adopting strategic approaches to redesigning their streets and networks. Reallocating space, where possible, will support transport options designed for everyone, as well as delivering the most attractive and competitive environments for businesses to operate in.

“The busy city centre presents a real challenge, and we know the public want to see change too – responses to market research undertaken during the council’s ‘Actions to Deliver Edinburgh’s City Mobility Plan’ consultation in 2023 showed 64% support for investigating more restrictions to through-traffic here. Our proposals for the city centre build on Edinburgh City Centre Transformation to further reduce traffic whilst improving public transport, with short-term trial measures to help test the impacts on the wider city.

Bold plans proposed for Edinburgh’s city centre and key transport corridors

Map of proposed preferred option for Edinburgh City Centre Transformation

“The council has been talking about these types of changes since before I moved here in 1996. It is now listening to residents and businesses and will be bolder, think bigger and act faster.”

Our Future Streets includes an appraisal of all main traffic corridors in the city for future investment, and the A8 has been identified as a priority. If approved, a package of measures will be developed, including improvements to junctions, bus priority, safer measures for walking, wheeling and cycling, and town centre improvements for St John’s Road.

The report also recommends a strategic approach to improvements in neighbourhoods through a programme of ‘Liveable Neighbourhood’ initiatives to deliver good quality, sustainable access to local services and facilities, with a focus on low cost improvements to pavements, such as dropped kerbs.

Our Future Streets’ outputs have been refined following a period of public consultation, alongside consultation on draft CMP action plans, the results of which were reported to Transport and Environment Committee in October 2023.

The plan is being presented to Committee as part of a package of reports looking to the future of transport in Edinburgh. This includes: Tram from Granton to BioQuarter and Beyond: Consultation for Strategic Business Case Development; West Edinburgh Transport Improvements Programme, which explores a series of improvements to the A8 corridor as a priority; and the first review of the City Mobility Plan.

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