Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, is recognised worldwide for its culture, history, and unique townscape. The city is a major tourism destination and enjoys an excellent quality of life. The bustling city centre has a rich mix of residential, commercial, tourism, and retail uses, which are complemented by a stunning and unique setting. Central to Edinburgh’s success is the variety of uses in the central Old and New Town area, which was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995. Residential, retail, academic and visiting occupants successfully co-exist alongside the city’s large and growing service sector, where financial services, tourism and, more recently, information technology industries are all key players.
The transport situation in Edinburgh
Transportation is probably one of the highest profile issues in Edinburgh at present. It has an impact on the city’s economy, society, environment and quality of life and on the health, safety and prosperity of all those who live, visit and work in and around the city.
Over the past 20 years, growth in car ownership and car use has caused traffic levels on some of the main city roads to increase by up to 60%. In Edinburgh and the central belt of Scotland, over a 10-year period, car ownership levels have risen by 57%, compared with a national growth rate of only 29%. This increase has, in turn, caused significant increases in traffic congestion, parking problems and air pollution at key city locations.
Transport routes, particularly roads, radiate in towards the city centre, which acts as a transport hub. An outer by-pass circles the east, south and western boundaries of the city, but there is neither a northern by-pass nor a recognised inner ring road for vehicular traffic. In turn the central area is coming under considerable pressure from cars, lorries and buses, many of which are entering the central area unnecessarily as part of through journeys.
City residents, businesses, and visitors suffer as a consequence and, if not brought under control, the recent economic success and the physical attractiveness of the city could be compromised. There is simply not enough space, in Edinburgh, for everyone who wants to travel by car and park at their desired destination. It is essential that the limited space available is prioritised and that everyone who lives, visits, or works in Edinburgh is able to travel within, as well as to and from the city, quickly, cheaply, and safely.
The resolution of the many issues relating to transport and traffic in the city is probably the biggest challenge facing the City of Edinburgh Council. It is essential that all that is best in the city’s heritage, townscape, and setting is conserved for the benefit of this and future generations. The challenge is for the city to adapt to ensure that it remains successful. Change can be introduced in a way that is consistent with and sensitive to the city’s heritage, and in a way that will enhance the quality of the city’s environment. The Local Transport Strategy, adopted by the Council in October 2000, recognises those challenges and proposes a plan that could instigate the necessary change.