City Centre trial set to go ahead

Improvements for pedestrians and cyclists will be the centrepiece of a trial set to take place over 12 months.

The changes aim to create a more accessible, welcoming and attractive City Centre area as part of wider efforts to revitalise the heart of the Capital.

The main proposals to be considered by councillors in a report to next week’s Transport and Environment Committee, include:

  • Temporary extension of the footway of George Street and Princes Street
  • Accommodation of a two-way cycle route on George Street
  • Implementation of a one-way system for general traffic and buses in an east bound direction on George Street
  • Implementation of a one-way system for buses, taxis and cycles in a west bound direction on Princes Street
  • Minimising loss of parking spaces on George Street, in response to feedback

The developments will sit alongside other improvements taking place elsewhere in the city centre, including the Royal Mile and Waverley Bridge, and initiatives to support extended shopping hours and the move to allow cafes and restaurants on Princes Street. If approved, the changes are scheduled to be introduced shortly before the tram service begins running.

A monitoring and evaluation group will be set up to oversee the 12 month trial.  Evaluation will focus on footfall, passenger use and business revenue as well as satisfaction with the additional space.  The group will regularly review the impact on residents, visitors, business and movement in and around the City Centre and assess the quality provided by different use of space.

Transport Convener Cllr Lesley Hinds said: "The consultation we did showed a clear desire for change but no obvious agreement about the best way forward. I would have been delighted if that was the case but we didn't get that. However, the status quo is simply not an option. We need to show leadership and create a vision for how the heart of Edinburgh will work in the future and this trial will help us to do that."

Planning Convener Cllr Ian Perry said: "One clear theme to emerge was that people supported the idea of both streets being more pedestrian-friendly. We also want to improve facilities for cyclists. The changes we're looking to make are temporary, don't involve any significant infrastructure works. I remember that opinion was split before we pedestrianised part of the High Street but that too was trialled and has been a great success."

Economy Convener Cllr Frank Ross said: "We know there are concerns from the business community, among others, about how this is going to be implemented and the potential impact on trade. It's important to stress that this will be a trial that aims to see how this will work in practice. We have agreed there will be a monitoring group, which will include local stakeholders, to see what lessons we can learn from this trial before making any lasting changes. However I'm sure we can all agree that we need a vibrant City Centre that shows off Edinburgh at its best, attracting residents and  visitors and competing with other major cities."

A range of consultation methods were used over the six week period to gather views from stakeholders and users. More than 2,000 people contributed to the process.

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