The Trams to Newhaven project continues to run on time and on budget and as specified. As the Leith Walk section opens up, however, issues and concerns are arising around the operation non-tram element which were agreed by the last Council administration. Below are two press statements which I issued today in relation to this.
Banned Left Turn on to London Road
The changes to the road layout at the London Road junction are designed to improve public transport efficiency, and protect pedestrians. These improvements are clearly signed, with seven signs in place on approach. Anyone contravening the rules is breaking the law, as well as endangering the safety of themselves and other road users. Ignoring the ban on left hand turns is extremely selfish, and I would urge drivers to take heed of the changes and follow alternative routes.
I visited the junction on Sunday to observe driver behaviour, and yesterday the Police, Council and the Trams to Newhaven team considered the issue. They continue to monitor the situation on an ongoing basis and are in the process of installing changes to the junction to make breaking the ban harder. They will also optimise the operation of the traffic lights at Picardy Place so that the time to get around the junction and turn right into London Road is as efficient as possible. We will continue dialogue with Police Scotland and continue to monitor the junction.
Accessibility of Leith Walk
The safety and comfort of all road users, in particular vulnerable groups, was at the forefront of Trams to Newhaven’s development by the last administration. Ultimately, in addition to the new tram line, this scheme aims to deliver a more welcoming environment for everyone travelling by foot, wheel or bike.
The Council’s project team has worked hard to engage closely with the public from the project’s inception, and the design for Leith Walk was developed in close consultation with the community and stakeholders during 2018 to allow residents, businesses, pedestrians and cyclist to co-exist with buses and trams.
The current layout complies with the Edinburgh Street Design Guidance (ESDG), which recognises that flexibility is required to accommodate a variety of modes in the design of existing streets. The lip between the footway and the cycleway is there to provide clear segregation for visually impaired pedestrians.
I acknowledge, however, that there are genuine concerns regarding this scheme and I will ensure it is closely monitored once it is fully open to the public. Additionally, I have given careful consideration to what lessons can be learnt from what we see unfolding on Leith Walk. Early in 2023 I hope to start the work of collaborating with disability groups to establish an Access Charter against which all transport projects will be assessed. As well as focusing on physical and sensory disabilities, this approach will consider the needs an rights of residents with learning disabilities, neurodiversity and brain injuries.