UPDATE – Lanark and Longstone/Inglis Green Road Spaces for People Proposals

This evening I attended a meeting of Councillors representing people along the proposed Lanark Road / Ingles Green Spaces for People Scheme. The meeting was chaired by the Transport Convener, but disappointingly the updated plans and consultation responses were not shared. Nor were we told how many people had responded to the consultation, but it was reported that the majority did object. It was also noted that a local petition which had raised concerns about the scheme had attracted “around 1000” signatures (1,344 actually).

It was explained that the aim of the scheme was to reduce congestion on the Canal Towpath and the Water of Leith Walkway. This appears to be based on anecdotes about usage in April, and an assertion that cycle traffic is still higher than normal. “Key Pinch Points” were noted as being Slateford Aqueduct and Harrision Park (no Water of Leith locations were mentioned). I asked if the plans were proportionate, and if the risks justified the use of Covid Powers. Although no evidence was tabled, it was argued that because the towpath was already busy pre-Covid then the plans are justified. Although I accept the towpath is/was busy (I broke my arm in a low-speed collision last year), I think a stronger argument needs to be made to justify the use of Covid Powers. Lessons have to be learned from the East Craigs debacle.

Key points.

1. The revised plans will be published along with the consultation responses before the mid-November Transport Committee. Transport Convener said she would not permit any further consultation on the plans.

2. The floating bus stops will not be part of the “Phase 1” installation. As I reported on my Facebook page, the Council are working with Sustrans on developing a new “factsheet” on these, and as part of this they will carry out a workshop with relevant affected groups who have raised concerns. Once this is complete they will review Lanark Road and consider the installation of floating bus stops along the corridor. If this does take place it will be subject to a Road Safety Audit before installation. To be honest, I doubt a “new factsheet” will change my mind or that of anyone else.

3. The Transport Convener expressed disappointment that the wider Spaces for People initiative has not been allowed to “flourish” due to public concerns being raised and regretted that the Lanark Road scheme (along with others) had become a “flashpoint”.

4. Changes to the plans have been made to accommodate Cranley Nursery, Lanark Road Nursery and Dovecot Park. Although I requested these changes (along with many residents), it appears the Council has yet to contact Cranley Nursery and several other businesses along the route. The Golf Club has also not been contacted.

5. The Council accept they have not given a great deal of consideration to the nurseries, but they hope that the scheme will encourage people to cycle to both Cranley Nursery and Lanark Road Nursery.

6. A temporary pedestrian crossing at Dovecot Park is not possible.

7. It was reported that the proposed Lanark Road / Ingles Green Scheme was a “top priority” within the wider Spaces for People initiative. Nonetheless, if work gets underway as planned in mid January 2021 it will go live more than 10 months after lockdown started.

Present at the meeting
Cllr Lesley Macinnes (Transport Convener)
Council staff (x3)

Cllr Scott Arthur
Cllr Ricky Henderson
Cllr Gavin Corbett
Cllr Neil Gardiner
Cllr Andrew Johnston
Cllr David Key
Cllr Jason Rust

Present but did not speak
Cllr Karen Doran
Cllr Sue Webber

Did not / Could not attend
Cllr Ashley Graczyk
Cllr Cathy Fullerton
Cllr Denis Dixon
Cllr Donald Willson
Cllr Graeme Bruce
Cllr Phil Doggart

Provision of Free School Meals in Edinburgh during holidays thanks to Marcus Rashford

Thanks to the actions of Marcus Rashford, the SNP Government has been forced (unlike the Tories) to make £6.95m available to local councils to fund free school meals over the Christmas, February and Easter breaks. As the announcement was not made until last week, people will have to apply to be reimbursed for the October break.

It should not take a pandemic for Scotland to ensure food is on the table of the poorest households – see my pre-Covid Council motion here.

Full briefing from the Council below.

Briefing
The Scottish Government confirmed last week that £6.95m is being made available to local authorities to provide Free School Meals (FSM) to eligible families during the holidays throughout the winter months.

Final allocations are still to be confirmed but Edinburgh is expected to receive £330,000. This includes covering provision for the October holidays, with the option for Councils to provide retrospective cash payments – which we are doing.

Scottish Ministers have also offered funding for the Easter holidays in 2021, which will be agreed in the next financial year – Edinburgh’s allocation has still to be confirmed.

As of today (Monday 26 October) we have made 6,435 retrospective payments (£13.50 per child) for the 2020 October holiday period direct to bank accounts for eligible families.

The payments are paid to the parents and carers of P1 to S6 children who receive a School Clothing Grant. As with the previous FSM payments over the school closures/summer holidays, children in P1 to P3 are not automatically entitled to FSM payments even though they receive the meals under Scottish Government legislation. In order to get the FSM holiday payments, they must have received a clothing grant/or have an income-based entitlement to FSM for the current term (2020/21).

A letter is also being issued to parents/carers who have been identified as being entitled to FSM with full details of how to send us their payment information securely using our online form before the end of November (30/11/20).

Parent and carers who were in receipt of FSM before the October holiday do not have to contact the Council as they will automatically receive the FSM holiday payment. Parents and carers who applied for FSM before the October holiday do not have to contact the Council as they will automatically be considered for the FSM holiday payment when their application is processed.

Residents making enquiries about FSM payments will be directed to the online application form where the eligibility criteria is set out: https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/xfp/form/221

Briefing – Community youth work in community centres, library re-opening and the use of school facilities for extra-curricular activities

Below is a briefing from the Council on Community youth work in community centres, library re-opening and the use of school facilities for extra-curricular activities.

Community youth work in community centres, library re-opening and the use of school facilities for extra-curricular activities

Throughout the pandemic the Council has been trying to balance the need to continue providing services to residents while keeping colleagues safe and following national guidance. The need to do this currently is particularly acute as cases of covid-19 are rising across the city. There are also challenges around re-opening services to pre-covid levels in a safe way given the financial cost of covid-19 to the Council.

We need to bear in mind the wider dependencies between the delivery of these covered in this briefing note and the safe provision of school education. These dependencies include the cost and availability of:

  • cleaning and janitorial support and
  • the potential increased risks to school provision by opening the school estate more broadly that potentially impact on the controls put in place to reduce the spread of infection within schools.

This briefing note updates you on the current position of the three key issues of:

  • working with community centre management committees to facilitate using the centres for community youth work
  • re-opening of a second tranche of libraries and
  • steps being taken to allow extra-curricular activities using school facilities to re-start.

These must be managed within Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland guidance and considering other associated guidance issued by bodies such as COSLA.

Current position
Planned next steps
Reporting to committee

Current position

Community youth work in community centres

At present, the Council is facilitating detached youth work in outdoor spaces and on a one-to-one basis in publicly accessible indoor spaces. This is to allow for critical contact with young people who are most in need.

Our Lifelong Learning Service team would normally deliver direct a range of youth work programmes in schools and community settings. At times, we deliver this youth work in partnership with community and third-party organisations. However, most of it is provided by the voluntary/third sector. Many of these organisations have access to their own premises and, in line with Scottish Government guidance for the third sector, have re-started providing youth work in those buildings.

There are youth work providers that use council community centres to carry out their work. This is mainly coordinated directly with the management committee, although often facilities management (FM) and business support services (BSS) by Council staff.

Please note that some targeted individual support for young people from youth work providers can take place in school settings where this work forms part of a GIRFEC child plan.

As reported to Policy and Sustainability Committee on 6 August, we have a process in place to enable management committees to make direct arrangements with the Council to access the building for defined purposes, including:

  • early learning and childcare
  • out of school care
  • blood donation services
  • food banks and other humanitarian purposes.
Libraries re-opening

As recommended in the report to the Policy and Sustainability Committee on 6 August, six of the 28 libraries have been reopened. These are:

  • Central Library
  • Fountainbridge
  • Kirkliston
  • McDonald Road
  • Newington
  • Stockbridge.

While the libraries service team would be able to run additional libraries, the key pressure on the Council relates to FM resources which are deployed within the school estate. Maintaining school re-opening has required – and continues to require – an increased level of FM resource across the whole school estate as they must deliver additional cleaning and infection prevention requirements. In addition, we’ve seen an increase (as at 18 October 2020) in the sickness absence rates for FM colleagues, with a number required to self-isolate as a result of covid-19 cases rising in schools, both within the student and colleague/teaching populations.

It is therefore essential that additional pressures and stress are not unduly placed on the FM service through further increasing the workload without a corresponding increase in both budget and available staff to undertake this additional work. To help mitigate these pressures, we’ve continued to recruit cleaning staff throughout the pandemic (recruitment has never slowed) and, at present, we’re progressing filling 56 posts.

School facilities for extra-curricular activities

Over the course of the first term, we applied rigorous risk management processes to make sure schools re-opened safely and any concerns were well-managed. These included infection control, workforce pressures and addressing gaps in learning. We developed strong relationships with health contacts and partner authorities which have shaped the service’s risk management processes. In particular, the contact tracing aspect of managing positive cases among staff and pupils helped schools to refine and tighten arrangements such as timetabling, staggered breaks and lunches and communications to parents and carers. Despite this, cumulatively, there have been 27,532 pupil absences related to covid-19 since the start of term. In addition, in w/e 16 October 20 alone, we have 336 staff absences related to covid-19.

Knowing that with every increased contact the risk of infection increases, our School Operation Risk Toolkit (SORT) and Framework has operated within Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland guidance and has restricted all but essential activities to a minimum. Until specific guidance is published by Education Scotland for extra-curricular activities, we use the reopening of schools guidance which clearly indicates parameters in which we work. Limiting contacts has ensured that schools have been able to remain open despite infectious cases being present. However, we now have far greater workforce pressures due to covid-19 related absence, not all of which can be addressed through the Scottish Government funding for additional teachers.

Re-introducing additional school activities therefore requires us to continue the cautious risk management approach. The School Operations Risk Toolkit and Framework is contained as Appendix 1. It details the approaches taken to ensure careful and appropriate risk management is in place. Various guidance documents are produced which articulate to SORT. These include the extra-curricular guidance document also attached. The document provides the step-process by which school and sports leaders can check proposed activities. The ability to resume activities depends on several interrelated factors: ventilation, cleaning, the number of contacts the teacher/tutor/coach has had in the day/week, as well as the obvious benefits of the activity.

Safely resuming all school activities is everyone’s goal. However, maintaining educational delivery remains paramount and we cannot risk that by rushing to re-open groups, no matter how much they are desired. This is particularly important while the R number continues to rise.

We have significant planning well underway for incrementally re-introducing extra-curricular activity across the school. The gradual return to sport and a wide range of other non-sporting activities is aligned to the safe return to school for all staff and pupils and aims to minimise interaction between pupils and adults and to retain school grouping structures where possible.

Schools can supplement Council extra-curricular activities and SORT guidance with specific governing body or equivalent advice. However, this should not replace or undermine the guidance.

We’re following national guidance to ensure we maintain the highest possible standards of safety for our children and young people. The current position and principles regarding extra-curricular activities are that it is only permitted if it is:

  • essential for literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing.
  • important for the young person’s learning, development and wellbeing ie on a young person’s plan and can be justified using appropriate mitigations.
  • something that can safely re-start because the R number suggests it is safe to do so following relevant guidance.

We are considering further guidelines for extra-curricular activities based on the latest guidance from Scottish Government, industry bodies, national governing bodies, Education Scotland and members of the Education Recovery Group. As with all guidelines at present, we need to look at the overall scientific advice which is current and relevant.

The Council’s Sports Academy is a highly valued programme and, by its nature, each sport within it brings together pupils from several schools across the city. For this reason, it’s not currently suitable to restart the Sports Academy, but we’ll review this position along with other aspects of extra-curricular activities on an ongoing basis.

Planned next steps

Community youth work in community centres

We’re contacting all management committees immediately to ascertain:

  1. whether they wish to use their facility for the provision of youth work
  2. what assistance they require from the Council in order to do so
  3. that the management committee is confident that the youth work can be undertaken in line with Scottish Government guidance.

When we get this information, we will identify how many require assistance from the Council. If there is an increased cost to the Council to meet these requests, then we will need committee approval to authorise an increase in budget. If management committees can undertake re-stat youth work without the need for people or financial assistance from the Council, we will be able progress those quickly.

Libraries re-opening

The full-year cost increase of re-opening the first six libraries in September was approximately £200k per annum. We’re preparing plans to re-open the following libraries in line with the plan that was approved by Policy and Sustainability Committee on 6 August:

  • Drumbrae (north-west Edinburgh)
  • Craigmillar (north-east Edinburgh)
  • Wester Hailes (south-west Edinburgh), with a replacement of Currie Library if Wester Hailes cannot be safely re-opened due to the ongoing construction works at Westside Plaza.
  • Gilmerton (south-east Edinburgh).

Given that this next tranche of re-opening will cost a further £200k (approximately), this will require the approval of both Policy and Sustainability committee and Council. Prior to this being brought forward for committee approval (if applicable), we must consider the availability of FM teams to support existing operations, particularly in school settings, and make sure that the re-opening of the additional libraries will not present a risk to the priority of maintaining a fit for purpose cleansing regime in our schools.

Subject to approval, we’re working to an indicative opening date of 14 December, but this may vary for each library. We will provide greater clarity on opening dates closer to the time.

School facilities for extra-curricular activities

Subject to not needing additional FM resources – and therefore no additional budget increase – we’re developing plans to allow extra-curricular sporting activities to re-start in line with Scottish Government guidance.

We’ve reviewed the current position on extra-curricular activities and have drawn up proposals to re-introduce them incrementally after the October schools break. We’ve created a tool (see extra-curricular activities decision-making tree attached at appendix 2) which allows us to determine whether an activity can take place from 27 October.

We recommend that volunteers are not permitted to deliver or support any form of extra-curricular activity to support infection control procedures and our ability to track and trace.

We’ll review this position on 12 November. We’ll develop guidance to allow some Council-approved external providers to deliver extra-curricular activities in specific contexts which are explained in the decision-making tree. Schools and lifelong learning colleagues are permitted to deliver extra-curricular activities in approved contexts.

Reporting to committee

If there is a need for additional budget and FM resource, we’ll take this to the next available Policy and Sustainability Committee, along with any resource requirements to allow for youth work in community centres to re-start and the next tranche of libraries to re-open.

Briefing – Traffic Figures for Comiston Road following the Braid Road Closure.

Braid Road. Photo: Martin P. McAdam http://www.martinmcadam.com

Below is a briefing on traffic volumes on Comiston Road before and after the Braid Road closure. It was drafted by the Council in late September, but not shared with me(!). I only found out about it when a local resident raised some questions about the content!

Traffic Figures for Comiston Road
It is noted that traffic levels at Morningside Station are at, near or marginally above the levels seen pre-Covid. This is shown in the traffic levels dashboard collected weekly, the most recent available data is below.

This is supported by recent counts of the junction compared with counts carried out in 2018 which produce the following comparison showing that although levels of traffic at this location are currently above 2019 levels, they are below levels seen in January 2018 by around 5%.

 Morningside Station
Jan 2018 Avg Weekday Traffic16854
Sep 2020 Avg Weekday Traffic16067
Change-787
Change %-5%

It is likely that part of the reason Morningside Station has seen traffic return to roughly normal, while some other streets continue to see reduced levels of traffic, is due to the closure of Braid Road, diverting some traffic onto the A702.

Counts at Greenbank Crossroads suggest that the A702 corridor is seeing a slight increase in vehicle numbers. However, this increase is far smaller than the number of vehicles that have been removed from Braid Road, so overall levels of traffic in the vicinity are still notably less than they were pre-Covid.

 Comiston RoadBraid RoadOverall
Jan 2018 Avg Weekday Traffic15447.59485.524933
Sep 2020 Avg Weekday Traffic17063017063
Change1615.5-9485.5-7870
Change %10%-100%-32%

While traffic on Comiston Road is 10% higher than the pre-Covid baseline, 17,063 vehicles per day, compared with 15,448 vehicles per day, the increase on the A702 corridor is far smaller than the amount of traffic previously recorded using Braid Road; 9,486 vehicles per day.

The overall level of traffic on these two corridors is 32% less than pre-Covid levels. This means that the general level of traffic which has returned to these corridors (68% of pre-Covid) is less than the level across the city (80-90%), suggesting that the closure has achieved a level of traffic reduction/ evaporation.

It is considered to be a significant risk that re-opening Braid Road at this stage would induce additional journeys by car, thus adding to the overall level of traffic in the area.

However, there is also a risk that if traffic across the city returns to normal levels then traffic on Comiston Road may continue to grow, possibly increasing public transport journey times and reducing air quality. Therefore, traffic levels will continue to be monitored at Morningside Station and Greenbank Junction and will inform decisions relating to existing and proposed interventions. We will also continue to liaise closely with Lothian Buses on a regular basis regarding the impact of the Braid Road closure on bus routes on the A702 corridor.

The completion of roadworks on the A701 has reduced the impact of diverted traffic and modifications to the traffic lights at the junctions of Greenbank Crescent and Greenbank Drive should improve the junction efficiency, mitigating the impact on bus journey times and reducing queueing times for all vehicles.

The road closure at Braid Road and introduction of a one-way street (except cyclists) on Braidburn Terrace has significantly reduced through traffic in the Hermitage Drive/ Braid Avenue/Midmar Drive area.

The development of the proposed Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Connection will consider feedback from local residents and Elected Members. Ongoing reviews of the current Braid Road closure will also consider any negative impact on the Comiston Road corridor and local residential areas. The final decision for this proposed scheme will be considered in the round taking account of any impacts holistically.

At its southern end the Quiet Route will run along Hermitage Drive between Braid Road and Hermitage Gardens. With Braid Road closed this link is lightly trafficked, however, were Braid Road opened this might require further intervention to ensure it was safe. 

The Quiet Connection has been designed to cut out ‘rat-running’ traffic from streets between Cluny Gardens and Comiston Road with strategic closures. This would include diagonal closures, continuing to allow access for local traffic and services, at the junctions of Braid Road and Braid Crescent, and the junction of Cluny Drive and Hermitage Gardens, as well as a modal filter on Braid Avenue. If Braid Road remains closed, these further closures would effectively eliminate through traffic cutting through residential streets between Cluny Gardens and Comiston Road, whilst allowing local access to both roads.

In addition, as part of the Braid Road, Road Safety Improvement Scheme, significant resurfacing from the Braid Hills Road junction to a point near Hermitage of Braid will now begin on 12 October for a period of three weeks and will, principally, take place within the existing road closure although restrictions about Braid Farm Road and Braid Hills Road will also be required. A further area of resurfacing at the junction of Braid Road and Cluny Gardens, being co-ordinated with SGN works, has also been rescheduled to begin on 21 September 2020 for a period of three weeks.

As previously stated, traffic levels will continue to be monitored to ensure that any potentially negative impacts of interventions can be considered and dealt with whilst also taking into account the benefits that the holistic approach to managing traffic in the area will realise.

Next Steps
The review of the current closure on Braid Road is continuing and further traffic counts will take place to assess both the continuing traffic levels on Comiston Road, and the level of cycle and pedestrian use of Braid Road.

Proposed Temporary Cycle Segregation – Lanark and Longstone/Inglis Green Road

The Council contacted me on Friday (25/09/20) to say they planned to install Temporary Cycle Segregation on Lanark and Longstone/Inglis Green Road. This is at the very edge of my Ward, and I only cover a small part of the scheme – The Lanark Road between Gillespie Crossroads and Hailes Avenue.

The plan is to: reduce the speed limit to 30mph; install segregated cycleways; make improvements to junctions along the road; introduce parking restrictions; install “Floating Bus Stops”; expand the bus lanes; and, remove pedestrian guardrails. 

The consultation is underway, and people have until 9th of October to respond (details below). I would urge residents who live in my Ward to copy me in to their response so that I can get an understanding of what the challenges and opportunities are. My e-mail address is Scott.Arthur@Edinburgh.Gov.UK

As it stands, I plan on making the following points:

  1. Specifically, what is the concern that triggered the use of Covid-19 guidance to propose these “Emergency Response Measures”.
  2. Detailed drawings of individual Floating Bus Stop designs must be shared for comment.
  3. A Road Safety Audit must be undertaken before work starts.
  4. A meeting with local residents must be held to address residual concerns. before any work gets underway.

The full briefing is below – this includes the plans and details on how to respond to the consultation.

Covid-19 Cycling and Walking Emergency Response Measures – Lanark and Longstone/Inglis Green Road

Please be advised that as part of overall emergency measures we are proposing to implement segregated cycleways on Lanark Road and Longstone/ Inglis Green Road to help pedestrians and cyclists travel safely while meeting physical distancing requirements. 

I have attached the proposed designs for the scheme.  In summary it shows:

  1. Introduction of uni-directional segregated cycleways along Lanark Road and Longstone Road
  2. Improvements to junctions along the road to make them safer for cyclists
  3. Introduction of waiting and loading restrictions along parts of Lanark and Longstone Road
  4. Introduction of Floating Bus Stops along Lanark Road
  5. Introduction of new sections of Bus Lane on the approach to key junctions
  6. Removal of pedestrian guardrail

Any comments relating to these proposals should be received by 1700 hrs on 9 October to spacesforpeople@edinburgh.gov.uk.

All feedback will be reviewed and where possible the scheme will be further refined. Feedback will be summarised in an assessment feedback form which will be presented to the Council Incident Management Team for approval. Please note that we will be unable to respond to individual emails.

If the proposal is approved for implementation, publicity will then be undertaken so that local people are aware of the changes. A dedicated inbox will help us to manage any feedback around proposals – spacesforpeople@edinburgh.gov.uk

The introduction of, or changes to, any restrictions will be implemented under emergency delegated decision-making powers using a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order.

Phase 1 of the Spaces for People Scheme on the A702

Phase 1 of the Spaces for People Scheme on the A702 looks to be more or less complete, and is being respected by most people. Issues from a cyclist (me) perspective:

  1. The new bus lane on the approach to Fairmilehead Crossroads is a bit of a free-for-all at times. A sign noting the hours of operation may help.
  2. Entering the cycle lane heading north after Pentland View is not easy due to the narrow/angled entry.
  3. There are no “wands” in place on the approach to Greenbank junction.
  4. . The wands make it far harder to merge with traffic when turning right.

The Council say it is committed to listening to suggestions from residents, drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and businesses on how the scheme can be improved. Please forward suggestions to spacesforpeople@edinburgh.gov.uk and feel free to copy me in (Scott.Arthur@Edinburgh.Gov.UK).

Image from @LTSI_Lesley on Twitter

Motion by Councillor Neil Ross – Quiet Route from Greenbank to the Meadows

There is a bit of confusion regarding the motion to “Reopen Braid Road” at Full-Council on Thursday (17th September). Firstly, there was no such motion. Councillor Neil Ross (Lib Dem) tabled a motion on the “Quiet Route from Greenbank to the Meadows”. This asked for a consultation to be undertaken on a proposed quiet route for cyclists, and for consideration to be given to prioritising “future road re-surfacing of Braidburn Terrace, the Braid Avenue/Cluny Gardens crossroads” as well as “sections of Canaan Lane and Cluny Drive”. It also suggested that the Council should consider introducing “traffic calming measures along the length of Hermitage Drive and Midmar Drive”.

To be clear, nobody has ever contacted me suggesting these changes were needed. The people that do contact me tend to want roads in my Ward prioritised for investment, rather than those elsewhere.

The Lib-Dem motion also asked for the reopening Braid Road to be consulted upon. The Tories amended that section to call for a temporary reopening of the road whilst a three month(!) consultation got underway. I want a permanent decision reached on Braid Road ASAP. I don’t see the point in prolonging the uncertainty for months and then waiting on a report.

Behind the scenes, I was lobbying for the October 1st Transport Committee to be used to:1. Provide an update on the future of Braid Road, including the option to reopen it; and,2. That local people get a greater say on the future of Braid Road.

I was given written assurances that if I raised these points in the debate, I would be given a “constructive response” from the Transport Convener. Sadly that did not happen.

I therefore did not support the Council Admistration’s position (essentially a report in November with no guarantee reopening Braid Road would even be an option), but could not support the Tory suggestion of a “temporary reopening” and taking money (perhaps over £1m) from elsewhere in the city to resurface roads and introduce traffic calming measures that nobody has made the case to me for.

The issue here is not really Braid Road, it’s the failure of the Council to listen to people. A complicating factor is the polarised debate, with too many Councillors unwilling to admit there is any problem with their approach. We received an update on the scheme yesterday (a draft report for the Oct Transport Committee) – Tories raised no concerns about Braid Rd. Lib-Dems did not show up. I am sure to would have been different if the meeting was webcast!

Unlike most of the seven Cllrs representing Fairmilehead / Comiston / Morningside, I actually live in my Ward (in Buckstone to be specific) so I understand the local situation. I have been working with Ian Murray MP & Daniel Johnson MSP on this, and I feel I have done more than any local Councillor to stand up for local people every single day (not just in Council meetings). This is evidenced on my blog and my Facebook pages which have been reaching thousands of people on this issue. The motion text is below

The video of the debate can be seen here and my contribution is here.

The Motion

Council:

Notes the proposal for a Quiet Route from Greenbank to the Meadows involving six road closures in Morningside.

Notes the proposal has been made without notifying any residents living on or near the proposed route or permitting residents the opportunity to express their views on the proposals, either positive or negative, by way of public consultation. 

Notes the proposal claims to tackle rat-running traffic but does not address speeding traffic on Hermitage Drive or Midmar Drive.

Notes the proposal includes two options for Braid Road, either to remain closed or to re-open for southbound traffic only.

Notes that the Council is proposing to implement the scheme by means of a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order despite the fact that there is no evidence that local residents and users of the route have any difficulties meeting the social distancing rules on this route.

Notes that the Council’s Commonplace online ideas tool collected twice as much support for protected cycle lanes on Whitehouse Loan than for closing that road to motor vehicles.

Notes the condition of the road surface on the proposed route, apart from Whitehouse Loan, is generally poor, especially on Canaan Lane, Cluny Drive, Braidburn Terrace and at the Braid Avenue/Cluny Gardens crossroads.

Believes that the level of danger of the transmission of Covid-19 infection between cyclists and other road users on the proposed route is so low that it does not justify using the Council’s emergency powers to implement this scheme.

Believes that local residents should be allowed to express their views on traffic management and road use proposals in their communities and that their views should be taken into account before a decision is made on whether to implement such proposals.

Therefore proposes that the implementation of the Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route using a temporary traffic regulation order should be paused and

instructs officers to hold an informal public consultation in the next three months with residents living on or near the proposed route and the school communities of James Gillespie’s High School and Primary School and NHS Lothian to identify levels of local support for:

The Tories changed the above paragraph to: Instructs officers to hold an informal public consultation in the next three months with residents living on or near the proposed route, relevant school communities in Wards 8 & Ward 10 including James Gillespie’s High School and Primary School and NHS Lothian to identify levels of local support for:

  1. the existing proposals for a Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route; and
  2. an alternative proposal for the same route, not involving road closures, to:
    • to gather any other practical suggestions from local residents with regard to this route that can be managed within existing budgets; and
    • prioritise future road re-surfacing of Braidburn Terrace, the Braid Avenue/Cluny Gardens crossroads and the relevant sections of Canaan Lane and Cluny Drive that are part of the route; and
    • introduce traffic calming measures along the length of Hermitage Drive and Midmar Drive;and
    • re-open Braid Road and use the time available before re-opening to re-surface the sections that are in poor condition and to install appropriate traffic calming measures, such as raising the road surface at road intersections and installing a pedestrian and cycle crossing near the entrance to the Hermitage and a chicane at the corner below the hotel.
    • The Tories changed the above to: Permanent re-opening of Braid Road including resurfacing, installation of appropriate traffic calming measures such as virtual speed humps, raising the road surface at road intersections, installing a pedestrian and cycle crossing near the entrance to the Hermitage and a chicane at the corner below the hotel, with Braid Road to be temporarily re-opened in both directions pending commencement and evaluation of the consultation in order to alleviate immediate concerns around traffic displacement and pollution.
  3. to gather any other practical suggestions from local residents with regard to this route that can be managed within existing budgets; and
  4. to draw up a report to the Transport and Environment Committee to present the results of the informal public consultation for consideration and further action.”

Council Administration Amendment

Deletes all (of the Lib-Dem Motion and replaces it with):
Notes that a proposal for a Quiet Route between Greenbank Crossroads and the Meadows, designed to establish a network of safe quiet streets using modal filters and to provide a safe cycleway from Fairmilehead to the city centre, will come forward to the Transport and Environment Committee on Nov 12th.

Notes that some of this proposal builds on suggestions from local community group ‘Blackford Safer Streets’.
Notes that stakeholder engagement has not yet begun ahead of the report on November 12th.

Recognises that there is considerable concern circulating in communities about the consultation process for Spaces for People projects already agreed to by this Council.

Notes that the agreed process includes a feedback mechanism for each project on issues raised by stakeholders, including community councils and elected ward members, as well as the stated intention to amend schemes post-implementation if appropriate (‘try and modify’ method).

Requests a meeting among all relevant ward councillors and transport spokespersons, convened by the Transport Convener, before Oct 3 to allow questions to be raised and for a comprehensive briefing on these proposals to be provided, including clarification on community consultation.

              

A702 Update – Bus Lanes, Traffic Lanes, Bus Stops and 40mph on Bigger Road

Below is an update on the A702 Spaces for People project. The main focus is safety issues associated Bus Stop Boarders (I wrongly called these floating bus stops previously), the new Bus Lane, the Biggar Rd speed limit and an issue at the Fairmilehead crossroads.

Bus Stop Boarders

Me: See attached (tweet in header image) from Living Streets on Bus Stop Boarders. Are these also off the table for the A702?
Council: “Bus Stop Bypasses are still proposed on the A702. These will be part of Phase 2”
Me: “Why are the bus stop boarders being removed from other schemes but not the A702?”
Council: We have decided to omit Bus Stop Bypasses from some schemes, this is primarily to reduce costs associated with delivering these. Broadly, the criteria we have applied are as follows:

If a road is: 20mph AND local or secondary AND serves less than 10 buses per hour, we will not generally use Bus Stop Bypasses. On these roads it will be reasonably safe for someone cycling to overtake a stopped bus. You will note that each of these applies for Pennywell Road; Causewayside and Buccleuch Street.

If however a road is 30mph (or more), OR; Strategic, OR; serves more than 10 buses per hour, we generally will use Bus Stop Bypasses.

There are some exceptions to the above and there will always be consideration of the site conditions – especially gradient. For example, we are not proposing Bypasses at bus stops in lay-bys on a downhill grade where people cycling do not need to change direction in order to overtake a stopped bus.

Comiston Road is a busy strategic route, has a speed limit of 30mph and at times a steep grade. Expecting people cycling to move into traffic in order to pass a stopped bus on a road like this – especially when travelling uphill – will significantly increase the risk, and limit the attractiveness of using this route by bike, especially to less confident and beginner cyclists.

The detail of our Bus Stop Bypass design will make clear to people cycling that they should give way to pedestrians, and that they should reduce their speed on the approach to bus stops.

You may be interested in the attached research reports looking at the operation of the Bus Stop Bypasses that have already been installed on Leith Walk between Pilrig Street and Macdonald Road. This research has been circulated to Transport Spokespersons for each party as well as relevant stakeholders (SPOKES; Living Streets; Edinburgh Access Panel; Edinburgh Bus Users Group).

The first is a report produced by Edinburgh Napier University which considers specifically the nature of the interactions between Pedestrians and Cyclists at these Bus Stop Bypasses during November 2017.

The second is a report produced by AECOM Ltd which considers several elements of the Leith Programme, including the Bus Stop Bypasses, Albert Place cycle-priority crossing, and Middlefield continuous footway. This report considers these elements against various indicators to provide an overall picture, across three assessment periods: November 2017; May 2018, and November 2018.

You will note that this monitoring demonstrates several interesting findings:

  • The overall number of people walking and cycling increased over the study period
  • The proportion of cyclists entering the footway, and pedestrians entering the cycleway decreased over time
  • The frequency, of interactions between people walking and cycling at the Bus Stop bypasses was very low with the vast majority of users not being involved in any form of interaction,
  • The typical severity of the interactions that did occur between people walking and cycling at bus stops was also very low, with most conflicts which did take place being minor in nature
  • These outcomes are consistent with other studies within the UK
  • Those conflicts which did occur were most often when cyclists and pedestrians were facing the same way and a pedestrian stepped into the cycleway. It is anticipated that installing cycleways with a level difference will reduce this type of conflict, and others, to even lower levels

I hope this is helpful, please let me know if you have any other questions or concerns.

Me: Can you confirm which of the studied stops use the same design as proposed on Comiston Road? If the answer is “none”, does CEC have any data which explains specifically the nature of the interactions between pedestrians and cyclists? When you say “we have decided to omit Bus Stop Bypasses from some schemes”, can you be clear about who “we” is? I understand there was a meeting with the Edinburgh Access Panel and Living Streets etc last week. Were their views on these stops discussed? Can the notes from the meeting be shared?
Council: [awaiting reply]

New Bus Lane

Me: I am getting lots of general e-mails from constituents about the A702, but the new bus lane at Fairmilehead crossroads is an issue that keeps coming up. I had a look at it yesterday, and I could see that southbound drivers were quick to merge (in the rush for the lights) alongside cyclists where the cycle lane ends. I feel the original proposed design was safer for cyclists, but making the bus lane 24/7 would be an improvement. Local residents are requesting off-peak parking in the bus lane.  Can these three options be considered?
Council: We will look into extending Bus Lane operation hours to 7am – 7pm on both bus lanes on the affected section of the A702 (northbound and southbound) to protect cyclists outside peak hours. We will not be introducing off-peak parking as this would be incompatible with the bus lanes being safe for use by cyclist

Traffic Lanes on Biggar Road

Me: Northbound traffic on the Biggar Rd still forms in two lanes (see header image). This leads to a sudden merger of traffic as it enters Buckstone Terrace. Making the left-hand lane for left turning traffic only would be safer. Can this be considered?
Council: This is already part of the designs. I believe this will be don

Biggar Rd Speed Limit

Me: This must be the shortest section of 40mph road in Edinburgh and zero protection is offered to cyclists. Can we make it 30mph?
Council: I will liaise with our Road Safety Team. If this section is already proposed to be reduced to 30mph then I will look into delivering this as part of SfP.
Me: Yes, Biggar Rd was scheduled to be 30mph.

Braid Road Briefing – “A full re-opening of Braid Road is not proposed at this stage”

Updated 25th September
Below is the latest briefing from Council Officers on the closure of Braid Road. It is clear that unlike other roads traffic on Comiston Road is now at (or exceeds) pre-Covid levels (at least in part due to the Braid Rd closure). Traffic data is now being collected and will inform a review (yes, another one!) over the next week or two. This point and the briefing raises a number of questions which I have put to Council Officers. I posed these questions on the 1st of September, and alongside them below are the responses which I received yesterday (24th of September).

Spaces for Exercise – On the 23rd of July I was told: “It is my understanding that Braid Road was one of the initial schemes in first phases of lockdown and was to provide a safe route to a green area when people were only permitted 1 hour of exercise a day. As we have moved through the phases more schemes are required to assist in containing the virus. All schemes go through various approval processes so that we know how they affect each other and are reviewed. Braid Road has been reviewed on a number of occasions with minor changes being made but I believe that there will be another review soon in which a more significant change will be made.” What has changed to justify the closure continuing?
Council Response – Braid Road scheme was reviewed following collection of traffic count data and the report from this review will be circulated to ward Cllrs soon.

Suitable for Cyclists – At the Ward Liaison meeting on the 7th of August Council Officers acknowledged that Braid Road was not popular with cyclists due to its steepness. Now that the Comiston Road scheme is coming on line, what role does Braid Road play in “enabling safe cycling”?
Council Response – Counts from May show that on average around 600 cycle journeys per day are made on Braid Road. We will continue to monitor this once the Comiston Road scheme is complete to understand whether this use remains or is diverted. However, the closure of Braid Road also reduces the levels of traffic through the Braidburn / Cluny area which improves the safety of onward cycle journeys towards the city centre from the South which go through this area.

Supporting Comments – The brief says “Various parties have called for it to be reopened, while some have called for it to be made permanent.”. Is it fair to say that the majority of people contacting the Council on this issue want Braid Road reopened? How many of the 4000+ comments lodged on the Common Place Portal asked for Braid Road to be closed?
Council Response – Of the over 4,100 comments on the Commonplace site, there were 27 comments made relating to Braid Road, with 194 agreements. In respect of the road closure, the following is a summary of comments: (1) One comment requested the permanent closure with 30 agreements. (2) One comment was made with comments about allowing people coming in and out of the Hermitage to maintain a safe distance between each other whilst walking and/or cycling with 21 agreements. (3) One comment made reference to narrow footways at a section with people walking on the road if the road was opened with 19 agreements. (4) One comment requested that it become a dedicated cycle route with 9 agreements.

11th of August Recommendation – This said the “closure [will] remain in place with a further review following the implementation of both the Comiston Road Cycleways and Greenbank to Meadows Quite Route”.
To whom was this recommendation made, and which of the seven Morningside and Fairmilehead Councillors were consulted? Were Lothian Buses consulted at that point?
Council Response – This recommendation was made to the Spaces for People Board. No Councillors were consulted. Engagement did take place with Lothian Buses who did not express concern.
[Cllr Arthur – I have been informed separately that the recommendation was made to the Transport Convener – I received this on the 12th of August – “The Transport Convener has a briefing and our recommendation following our Design Risk Assessment review. Rurigdh should be able to offer the Councillors from both Wards an update this morning as soon as we receive a response.”]

Improved Bus Service Times – Can an analysis of the data on this be shared?
Council Response Colleagues within Lothian Buses have stated that service times are improving. Raw data on this has not been shared with the Council.

People choose different routes – The Council appears to suggest that the congestion on the A702 will force cars on to other routes and thereby reduce queuing. Is this not the type of “rat-running” we should be trying to avoid? Indeed, some residents have told me they have stopped using the bus, and now drive! Do we want people to stop taking the bus up town to use businesses there?
Council ResponseSome people may choose different routes than the A702, though there are limited other options available. Any impact on other routes will be considered should it cause problems.

Reclaiming City Streets for People – At the core of this report is making available good quality public transport. Is the Braid Road closure having a positive impact on bus journey times?
Council ResponseThis report establishes the principle of Traffic Disappearance – ie: Reducing network capacity generally leads to reduced traffic as people choose not to travel, or travel by other modes. Public Transport and other options such as walking and cycling play an important role here. We are in close liaison with Lothian Buses and are implementing protected cycleways. Both provide reasonable alternatives to private car for journeys along the A702 corridor.

Numerous actions to address recent traffic and congestion issues – This is reassuring, can these be listed along with their impact?
Council Response(1) Linking traffic lights at Greenbank Drive with those at Greenbank Crescent to ensure joint operation. (2) Installing cycle detection on Braidburn Terrace approach to Greenbank Crossroads in order to ensure this green phase is only called when required as traffic is no longer making this manoeuvre. This will add approximately 12s per cycle to the available green time across other movements.

Traffic Counts WB 31st of August – These are welcome, but will they quantify the delays to buses and allow a comparison with January 2018? Will any seasonal fluctuation in traffic volume be accounted for? Will pedestrian and cyclist numbers on Braid Road and Comiston Road be recorded?
Council ResponseCounts will not quantify delays to buses. There is no adjustment for seasonal variation. Ped and Cycle numbers will be recorded at Comiston Road. The counts duing w/c 31st Aug did not include Braid Road. However Braid Road has been included in the forthcoming counts to take place w/c 14th ad w/c 21st.  Counts took places on Braid Road during May immediately after the closure.

Options 1 & 2 – I feel it is a mistake not to consider the option of reopening the road completely (as a benchmark if nothing else). I also feel an additional scenario of Option 2 with two-way traffic should be considered. Can these be included?
Council ResponseA full re-opening can be considered at each review.

Consultation – Greater clarity is required on what part Ward Councillors will play in the decision making process, and how residents can make their views known.
Council Response We are following the notification and engagement process approved at the Policy and Sustainability Committee on 14 May and will be continuing to monitor the situation.

Summation – The briefing does not fully detail the benefits and consequences of continuing the closure of Braid Road beyond the completion of Phase 1 of the Comiston Road scheme. Should this case not be made if the closure is to continue? Has any Councillor suggested that Braid Road should remain closed indefinitely?
Council Response The case for continuing the closure is related to the reduction in traffic, this will be assessed through the ongoing traffic counts. At least one Councillor and numerous local residents have suggested keeping Braid Road closed indefinitely.
[Cllr Arthur – Edinburgh has 63 Councilors]

The Braid Road Briefing

Background
As part of the Council’s Spaces for People programme three individual related projects were developed, each aiming to remove through traffic from local streets, benefit pedestrians and enable safe cycling from the south of the city to the city centre. 

  1. Braid Road Closure (initially introduced as a Spaces for Exercise project)
  2. Comiston Road Segregated Cycleways
  3. Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route

Braid Road Closure has been in place since early May. Various parties have called for it to be reopened, while some have called for it to be made permanent.

The Comiston Road scheme will provide segregated cycleways along the A702 from Frogston Road to Greenbank Crescent. Construction of the cycleways commenced on Monday 24 August and is expected to be complete by Friday 11 September.

The proposed Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route aims to establish a network of safe quiet streets using modal filters between Greenbank Crossroads and the Meadows, thus providing a safe cycleway from Fairmilehead to the city centre. 

Braid Road
Braid Road was closed between the Best Western Hotel and Hermitage Drive. At this time Braidburn Terrace was designated One-Way Eastbound with a cycle contraflow. These interventions remove through traffic from many of the streets in the surrounding area by requiring most North-South trips to be made via the A702.

The Braid Road scheme was reviewed by the Design Review Group on 11 August 2020 and it was recommended that the closure remain in place with a further review following the implementation of both the Comiston Road Cycleways and Greenbank to Meadows Quite Route. (Scheme Review Form enclosed).

The main objections to the closure relate to concerns regarding the level of traffic on Comiston Road, and delays to bus journeys.

Traffic on Comiston Road
It is acknowledged that traffic levels on Comiston Road returned to roughly pre-Covid levels earlier than other arterial routes, and this may be a result of the closure of Braid Road. However, this is not the only factor which has affected traffic levels.  

During the week commencing 10th August there were roadworks on the A701 at Kaimes Crossroads which likely diverted additional traffic onto the A702. Unfortunately, these road works coincided with the schools returning resulting in delays, including significant delays to buses. However, following removal of the temporary traffic lights Lothian Buses have reported that service times are much improved.

In order to better understand the current traffic situation on Comiston Road the Council has commissioned traffic counts at Greenbank Crossroads and Morningside Station. These counts will take place WC 31 August with the results available next week. This data will be compared against counts from January 2018 for both Greenbank Crossroads and Braid Road, allowing us to accurately quantify the impact of the Braid Road closure on traffic on Comiston Road, and inform the next project reviews.

While it is likely that traffic will have diverted onto Comiston Road as a result of the closure of Braid Road – it will be important to consider whether overall levels of traffic on both streets has changed.

Furthermore, any increase in traffic on the A702 that has occurred can reasonably be expected to reduce over time as people choose different routes, or make more sustainable travel choices through the principle of ‘traffic disappearance’ as people adapt their behaviours.

[For more information on Traffic Disappearance see: Reclaiming City Streets for People by the European Commission]

Actions to Address Traffic on Comiston Road
The Council have taken numerous actions to address recent traffic and congestion issues on Comiston Road with further improvements planned.

The Council’s traffic signals teams adjusted the signals timings at the junctions with Greenbank Drive and Greenbank Crescent during the past week. This is expected to improve traffic flows.

During the coming fortnight it is proposed introduce a bicycle detection system to the Braidburn Terrace approach to Greenbank Crossroads. This street has been designated one-way, meaning there is no vehicular traffic entering the junction. However, the traffic lights have been continuing to provide a green light phase to this movement, resulting in lost time. Adjusting the traffic lights so that this green phase is only called when required is expected to significantly improve north-south traffic flow on Comiston Road by increasing the green time for these movements.

Delays to Buses
We have liaised closely with Lothian Buses regarding the impact of the Braid Road closure, and the interventions proposed for Comiston Road.

It has been reported that traffic is queueing in both directions from Greenbank Crossroads to an extent that causes delays to the bus services at peak times – especially following schools restarting during the week commencing 10 August.

Northbound it has been reported that queues are stacking back as far as Buckstone Terrace, which will cause delays to northbound buses. However, discussions with Lothian Buses have indicated that this is occasional, and that generally the queue does not extend further south than Comiston Springs Avenue, meaning buses can access the northbound Bus Lane and bypass the queue. (This is confirmed this week with Service 11 buses delayed at the 4 way TTLs at Lasswade Rd but not further delayed on Comiston Rd)

Southbound there are no bus lanes on the approach to this junction which mean that excess queueing will have a more immediate impact on buses. Throughout the week of the 10 August there were temporary traffic lights in place at Kaimes Crossroads on the A701. During this week there were significant queues on Comiston Road and the A702 which caused significant delays to bus services as a result of traffic transferring from the A701.  However, following the completion of these works Lothian Buses have advised that traffic has returned to the A701 and they are not experiencing significant delays on the A702 during the pm peak.

Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route 
The Greenbank to Meadows Quiet Route is the second half of the proposed route from Frogston Road to the city centre. It will run along quiet roads parallel to Morningside Road.

In order to implement this proposed route road closures would be introduced at various locations to remove through traffic. 

At its southern end the route runs along Hermitage Avenue between Braid Road and Hermitage Gardens. With Braid Road closed this link is lightly trafficked, however, were Braid Road opened this might require further intervention to ensure it was safe.

The proposed Greenbank to Meadows QR has been designed so as to cut out rat-running traffic from streets between Cluny Gardens and Comiston Road with strategic closures shown in the map overleaf (below). This would include diagonal closures at the junctions of Braid Road & Braid Crescent, and the junction of Cluny Drive & Hermitage Gardens, as well as a modal filter on Braid Avenue. With Braid Road closed, these further interventions would effectively eliminate traffic cutting through residential streets between Cluny Gardens and Comiston Road.

As part of Greenbank to Meadows QR It is also proposed to introduce two closures on Whitehouse Loan. One immediately south of Strathearn Road, the other immediately south of Bruntsfield Crescent. These closures will enable safe cycling on Whitehouse Loan and reflect proposals which have been put forward by local community group ‘Blackford Safer Streets’.

Braid Road – Options
Options considered for the current Braid Road closure. 

Option 1 – Retain Closure – This option retains the maximum level of provision for walking and cycling and – alongside Greenbank to Meadows QR – removes through traffic from the greatest number of residential streets. Strategic diagonal closures at several points make it all but impossible to cut through between Cluny Gardens and Comiston Road, without having undue impact on residents’ ability to access the road network by car.

Option 2 – One-Way Southbound – Opening Braid Road to southbound traffic only would be a reasonable alternative on completion of the road safety cycle segregation and resurfacing works. There is no Southbound bus lane on Comiston Road, meaning that queueing traffic heading south on the A702 has a greater impact on buses than the reverse. 

However, Option 2 requires that through traffic is permitted to travel between Cluny Gardens and Braid Road via some residential streets. Through traffic will tend to route along Midmar Avenue where it is worth noting that residential properties are only on one side, and so traffic will affect the minimal number of households.

Full Re-Opening – A full re-opening of Braid Road is not proposed at this stage, though could still be considered at a further review as the Spaces for People Programme continues.

Option 1 and Option 2 are shown below, along with a table outlining their respective costs and benefits, and where appropriate the mitigations for these.

Next Steps
A further review of all options will be considered in more detail in 2/3 weeks when information regarding traffic counts and traffic light sequencing changes has been received.

Option 1
Benefits:

  1. Greatest improvement for people walking and cycling
  2. Through traffic removed from all streets between Cluny Gdns and Comiston Rd
  3. Contribution to Traffic Reduction

Costs

  1. Some increase in traffic on Comiston Road (impact on residents as well as road-users)
  2. Some impact on bus delays  on Comiston Road
  3. Less resilience in case of emergency road closure on A702

Mitigations/ Caveats

  1. Traffic increase appears to be minor (TBA)
  2. Bus delays appear to be minor
  3. Both will continue to be monitored
  4. Traffic likely to fall over time Closure can be reversed in emergency 

Option 2
Benefits:

  1. Reduce impact on southbound traffic on Comiston Road
  2. Reduce impact on southbound buses on Comiston Road

Costs

  1. Less provision for people walking and cycling
  2. Through Traffic reintroduced on Midmar Avenue and Hermitage Dr
  3. Additional measures required on Hermitage Drive to provide safe cycling route –impact on parking (for segregation) and additional expense
  4. Reduced opportunity for traffic disappearance

Mitigations/ Caveats

  1. Coherent route still deliverable – though at slightly greater expense
  2. Small number of households affected
  3. Braid Road still closed northbound


Confirmed – Bus trips home from Boroughmuir High School are being routinely delayed by 60 minutes.

This week I have received consistent reports that bus trips home from Boroughmuir High School are taking up to 90 minutes (i.e. slower than walking). I contacted the Interim MD of Lothian Buses, Nigel Serafini, yesterday to get his perspective – his response is below.

You will see that he is clear that “delays to services of up to 60 minutes” have meant timetables have been “rendered redundant.” The cause is “significantly increased” traffic volumes, roadworks and “new road management measures”.

An efficient public transport system is key to getting our city out of the economic slump caused by Covid-19. These delays will only force people out of buses and into cars, a move that will only exacerbate the delays and damage Edinburgh’s tentative recovery. I have passed Nigel Serafini’s e-mail to the Spaces for People team so it can be considered as part of the review of the Braid Road closure.

I am well aware of the stress these delays are causing people using the route – particularly S1 pupils are their parents. I have spent the last couple of mornings looking at traffic around Greenbank (see herehere), and on Monday (weather permitting) I hope to look at the evening rush hour as I understand that is when delays are worst. 

Update from CEC – “I have discussed this with colleagues in Lothian Buses who have advised that these delays are primarily due – as they see it – to the Temporary Traffic Lights at Kaimes Crossroads which started on Monday and finish today, pushing traffic from the A701 to the A702. As such we might reasonably expect the traffic situation to improve next week assuming the TTL operation at Kaimes is complete.

Nigel Serafini:
In planning for the return of schools we increased service levels and provided additional journeys on corridors where we anticipated capacity issues. In addition to these measures we have provided for back-up vehicles and drivers to be deployed as and when we encounter unexpected customer uplifts. This has worked successfully throughout the many phases of lockdown and more recently as schools have re-opened fully. Unfortunately the effectiveness of these measures has been impaired by a number of external factors outwith our control.

Road traffic volumes have significantly increased this week coinciding with increased roadworks and new road management measures across the city. This has led to significant congestion and delays to services of up to 60 minutes, causing planned timetables to be rendered redundant. As traffic has slowed, loadings have become heavier and additional journeys have been unable to be in the right place and time to cater for school exit times. We are currently re-working timetables to try and mitigate some of these issues by introducing short workings on some timetables to allow a measure of flexibility.

As you will be aware, the compulsory wearing of face coverings on public transport is currently not enforceable by our staff and where family groups or those in ‘social bubbles’ are allowed to travel/sit together we cannot restrict numbers. We have never been asked by the local authority to provide dedicated school transport but we continue to monitor customer numbers and will adjust timetables/frequency’s over the coming days/weeks until hopefully traffic conditions begin to improve.