Edinburgh City Bypass (A720)

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

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Photo of Jamie Greene Jamie Greene Conservative

Miles Briggs has set out the problem, and Colin Beattie has provided the solutions, so I do not know what to say. I am stuck in the middle and might repeat what has been said.

The debate is a good opportunity to raise awareness of the issue. Edinburgh is our capital city and a huge focus for business, tourism and inward investment, as Miles Briggs said. It is important that we get this right.

On the bypass at the moment—where do I start? I do not know about other members, but for me, leaving the Parliament at decision time on a Thursday and attempting to use the bypass is not an option; it is a no-brainer to leave earlier or to wait for a few hours in town—not that I ever leave early.

The reality is that many people are in the same situation. Commuters, businesses and others who do not just use but rely on the road get stuck there, day in and day out. As Miles Briggs said, radio traffic reports talk about congestion almost by default—it is always in the first line of the script.

Nearly 80,000 vehicles use the road every day, and the number will increase by 30 per cent over the next 10 years. That is dire. Edinburgh is Britain’s second most congested city. Can members guess which city is third? It is Glasgow. I was surprised to learn that the second and third most congested cities in the UK are Edinburgh and Glasgow, not Manchester and Birmingham, given their populations. Miles Briggs talked about bottlenecks, and four bottlenecks in Edinburgh are on the list. They are all on the A720 westbound. I have not mentioned the A8 route into Edinburgh, which is also a mess.

The cost of the congestion is huge. Drivers spend about 31 hours a year sitting in traffic in Edinburgh. When a small business owner loses 31 hours, that represents a tremendous amount of lost revenue and time wasted sitting in the car instead of running the company.

Public transport is an option, and modal shift is important. The Parliament spends a lot of time talking about how to achieve a shift to public transport, but some people have to spend time in their cars, vans or other vehicles. Congestion represents wasted time that is costing the economy in Edinburgh nearly £3 billion a year.

The answer is not simply to ban cars. It is not simply to widen the road. It is not simply to build a flyover or enlarge a roundabout. The answer is a bit of all of the above. There needs to be a joined-up approach to the measures that we take.

We need to look at improving the road. The amount of traffic on it has grown immensely since it was built. I think that it was built in 1980—which is the year in which I was born—so it is not a huge surprise that the volumes have increased at the rate that they have. There should be a feasibility study into widening the road, but that should be part of a bigger conversation about how we address demand in the decades to come, when traffic volumes will increase by hundreds of thousands of vehicles, and about the nature of what our roads do and what purpose they serve.

In the future, we could have smart roads and implement more dynamic lane management systems, variable speed limits and the use of lanes by buses and cars, variously, at different times of the day. That happens to a certain extent at present, but I get the impression that we have not been particularly forward thinking compared with other countries across western Europe or parts of Asia, as Colin Beattie mentioned.

I will not repeat the statistics that we have heard. However, given that the volumes of traffic are going to increase and that the populations of Edinburgh and Midlothian are going to increase dramatically, we need to have a sensible and frank discussion about how we can future proof our transport network to meet the needs of tomorrow.