In August this year, locals petitioned councillors about what they say is disruptive over-use of East London Street by HGVs and Lothian Buses. In response, officials have now compiled a report to go before the Transport & Environment Committee on 12 October.
Two of the report’s recommendations will be welcomed by residents: (1) Traffic monitoring will be carried out with the results available in January 2024; (2) Annual nitrogen dioxide monitoring data for the street will also be reported in 2024, although it’s not clear when.
In addition, officers are considering possible alternative routes in the area suitable for HGV and bus use. Results and potential costs for implementing these will be reported next month.
Other aspects of the report, looking at Lothian Buses’ actions to reduce the number of vehicles on East London Street, and Edinburgh Council’s responses to residents’ concerns, are more contentious.
Officials cited daily traffic counts made in 2019. These are outdated and do not distinguish between Public Service Vehicles and Heavy Goods Vehicles. Officials concede that a video survey may be necessary for accurate assessments to be made.
Officials provide an appendix showing the number of buses scheduled to use East London Street in 2019, 2022 and 2023. These figures, derived from Lothian Buses, seem to show a reduction in scheduled services, not least since timetable changes made in September this year.
However, these figures do not match residents’ own observations of scheduled services using the route, nor do they address the number of unscheduled buses using East London Street as a shortcut to and from the Annandale Street depot.
Lothian Buses’ speed surveys, carried out in August 2020 and August/September 2023, give average bus speeds of 14.1 mph and 12.56/12.5 mph respectively. Again, these figures do not match residents’ observations of bus speeds, which they say have often exceeded 20 mph.
Referring to a 24-hour monitoring of noise on East London Street in December 2022, officials say that despite some peak levels exceeding 68dB(A) – many of them between 11pm and midnight and between 5.30am and 7.00am – the average level was acceptable.
Residents’ own noise survey (Issue 325) differs markedly from the levels recorded by Council officials. They argue that the din here regularly exceeds World Health Organisation guidelines and that officials have misinterpreted their own data.
Officials concede that what they term an ‘acceptable’ level is derived from the Noise Insulation Regulations 1975. As such, it applies only to ‘new or altered roads that affect existing properties’. Residents point out that East London Street is neither new nor altered but rapidly deteriorating, and that this worsening condition adds to the level of noise.
Road surface options
Officials advise against repairing the carriageway here and now because setted streets elsewhere in the city have greater priority.
They point out that it is Council policy to retain setts in conservation areas, but even if a decision were made to asphalt over the surface in East London Street, as local residents have called for, this new surface would itself begin to fail relatively quickly.
In any case, officials say, asphalting is not cheap and could not be prioritised on this particular carriageway ahead of work needed on other setted streets elsewhere in Edinburgh.
Lothian Buses’ assurances
Sceptics Spurtle has spoken to are particularly scathing about how the report repeats without questioning Lothian Buses’ assurances.
The report summarises Lothian Buses’ policy and guidance information in Appendix 2. It does not assess how effectively (if at all) such policy and guidance have been applied.
The report states that Lothian Buses are aware of concerns about East London Street and ‘will continue to review their route plans to minimise its use for scheduled services’. But there is no mention here of unscheduled services routed at the discretion of drivers day and night.
The report concludes that ‘In addition, [Lothian Buses] will continue to remind drivers of their responsibilities at the start and end of service, on service route information, newsletters, online portal and through real time information.’
To this, one resident told Spurtle yesterday, ‘If bus bosses have ever reminded drivers of their responsibilities at the start and end of service, there’s b*gger-all evidence that drivers have listened’.
Next steps and ‘scandalous’ intervention
Local campaigners will address the New Town & Broughton Community Council at its monthly meeting tomorrow evening. They also plan to address the Transport & Environment Committee at its next meeting on Thursday.
Several among them consider it ‘scandalous’ that T&E Convener Cllr Scott Arthur has used social media over the weekend to ‘prejudge’ the issues in advance of the committee meeting.
One told us, ‘The residents are unhappy that he is insinuating that those of us who get ourselves organised to make cogent cases and legitimate calls for help to our elected members are "shouting the loudest" and so take priority over others who deserve help first.
‘Scott Arthur is getting ahead of himself, I’d say. There is a procedure to follow.’
Contrary to some opinions online, Spurtle is not a dedicated news outlet for campaigners seeking changes to traffic use on East London Street. We report.