Sunday, 23 June 2013

The roundabout economics of Sheriffhall

The announcement this week that Transport Scotland has awarded a £200,000 contract for a feasibility study into Sheriffhall roundabout is welcome news. As the only roundabout on the Edinburgh by-pass and a major intersection with traffic between Edinburgh and Midlothian, it is a notorious bottleneck.

It is also a major headache for anyone foolish enough to try and cross it on a bicycle. Last year I heard that Midlothian Council had already received £802,000 over ten years ago from the Scottish Government to help resolve this. So why hasn't it been fixed?

So in November 2012 I started asking questions, the first of which I directed at the leader of the council. Whilst it is still unclear if the funding was just borrowing consent, original reports implied grant funding. Nevertheless, money was finally there to do something.

After a bit of digging, I managed to unearth some council documents which show that the council's commitment to cycling in Midlothian was, to say the least, half- hearted. To cut a long story short, the tenders came in over budget and Midlothian decided to spend the money on the Todhills Park and Ride instead.

Perhaps the most useful piece of information I found is the very last paragraph of the Cabinet report of 26 October 2004, where the council "c) provides the Scottish Executive with assurances that pedestrians and cyclists will be catered for in any future developments around the Sheriffhall junction".

So how will those assurances be honoured? Whilst the roundabout is the responsibility of Transport Scotland, I expect at the very least that Midlothian Council will be applying pressure, and perhaps some funding, towards its original stated aim "to provide a foot/cycle bridge across Sheriffhall Roundabout to allow safe passage for vulnerable users at this junction". Will that happen?

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