Edinburgh City Bypass (A720)

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 31st May 2018.

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Photo of Gordon Lindhurst Gordon Lindhurst Conservative

Presiding Officer, I am delighted that I will now have much longer than four minutes. I am only joking, of course.

The dreaded radio traffic reports are a daily headache for the commuters of Edinburgh and Lothian. The Edinburgh city bypass is a standing fixture of those reports, whether it is congestion at Hermiston Gait heading east, a tailback at Dreghorn, queues at Straiton or, of course, lengthy delays at the Sheriffhall roundabout. A lot of those are not newsworthy for the people who are familiar with those places; indeed, one would have to be an uninformed visitor from the moon to be surprised at any of that, sadly.

As a Lothian MSP, I am all too familiar with the A720 arterial road and how it is crucial to the service and transport links in this area but is such a stumbling block to getting anywhere. That has been referred to by Miles Briggs and other colleagues across the chamber. The situation is not surprising, because the bypass was built in sections starting in 1980 and was completed in 1989. I am not saying that Jamie Greene is old, having been born in 1980, when it started, but 1980 is ancient in terms of transport and the increase in traffic that we have experienced in Scotland since then, which has come about not just because of the increasing use of cars for transport requirements but the house building that has taken place.

Hundreds of n ew houses are being built in

Frogston, and the A720 as it is now, having been constructed at the time when it was, is no longer in a fit state for what is required.

The Scottish Government has a number of urgent challenges, first and foremost of which is to deliver the Sheriffhall grade road separation project, which has been referred to.

D raft orders are not published for it yet, but it will mean even longer queues and more frustration for the drivers who have no option but to go through there. We have already heard from Colin Smyth about the lack of public transport links, even for those who wish to use them. People have to use the A720 to come that way into Edinburgh.

There are also other considerations about the Sheriffhall roundabout. A number of campaign groups, predominantly from the cycling lobby, have voiced concern about safety, and cyclists are some of those who are trying to use alternative means to get to work. I have asked the minister about that previously, and I look forward to his updating Parliament on how cyclist safety will be incorporated into the favoured option for the Sheriffhall roundabout.

There are a few other things that I would like to hear from the minister about. Are there further ideas in the pipeline for increasing capacity at other points on the A720, such as increasing the number of lanes? Are there any other innovative solutions that might be available in the 21st century? If Scotland is to beat other countries in phasing out petrol and diesel cars, has the minister given any thought to how electric vehicle charging points can be incorporated into road improvement works on or near trunk roads such as the bypass, particularly in circumstances in which it can be a lengthy process for commuters to go on and off the roads at peak times? Will extra capacity be provided to make that a possibility? Those are considerations that could impact on Lothian and the whole of Scotland.

The residents of Edinburgh and the Lothians want to see improvements to their city bypass, and many of their concerns have been voiced today. I hope that those concerns have been heard and will be taken on board by the Government, and that the minister can give us some clues about how those points will be addressed in the near future.