EDINBURGH LOOKS set for major traffic congestion, local transport chiefs warned this week, following the controversial decision to site Scotland's new parliament building in the city centre.
Against the advice of city council engineers and his own transport consultant Scott Wilson, Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar last week chose the central location opposite Holyrood Palace in preference to the widely acknowledged favourite and less congested site on Carlton Hill.
'We advised the Scottish Office that Carlton Hill was much better in transport terms, with easier access for public transport and less road congestion,' said city transport convenor David Begg. 'Even if we close roads around the Holyrood site, traffic congestion could just move elsewhere in the city.'
A Scottish Office spokesman stressed that the Holyrood decision was based on a wide range of factors and accepted that transport problems had been a 'downside' in the choice. But a Scottish Office-commissioned study by SW, on all four possible sites, also found Carlton Hill more suitable in both transport and environmental terms.
The two month study rated the sites against 21 major factors ranging from public and private transport availability, road congestion and car parking, to air quality and green space.
'Carlton Hill came top in most areas and was, on balance, the clear winner,' said SW director Ronnie Hunter. 'A lot of work has now to be done to reduce congestion around the Holyrood site.'
One suggestion is for a 200m long, £4M cut and cover tunnel running beneath an adjacent street to relieve the 17,000 vehicles now using the route each day. And the city council is already looking at extending its £50M planned guided busway system between the city centre and Edinburgh airport which is due to start construction next year.
An international competition for the new £50M plus parliament building will be launched in the next few months. Construction on the 1.6ha site should start summer next year for completion in 2001 - two years after the new Scottish parliament is convened.