Transport in Edinburgh

Transport in Edinburgh

Edinburgh constitutes a major transport hub in east central Scotland and as such is at the centre of a multi-modal transport network comprising road, rail and air communications connecting the city with the rest of Scotland, the United Kingdom and internationally.

Transport is an area under the control of the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government who have the statutory ability to control, fund and regulate transport projects of national importance within the city. Transport Edinburgh is Edinburgh City Council's executive body responsible for the development of all transport projects within the city and brings a number of key transport providers together under the one umbrella. ["Transport Edinburgh" [] Transport Edinburgh 2006 - About us] .

Public Transport in Edinburgh is generally extensive and efficient, but problems such as traffic congestion and the delivery of key transport projects in the city are a prevailing concern.


Edinburgh's International Airport (Turnhouse) is located 8 miles to the west of the city centre, on the A8 trunk road, and is the principal international gateway to the city, as well as the busiest airport in Scotland. It is owned and operated by BAA plc. The airport serves a wide range of domestic and an expanding number of European and transatlantic destinations, currently handling in excess of 9 million passengers per year. In 1991 over 2m passengers used the airport - this represents an annual increase in excess of 10%. Forecasts suggest that the number of passengers using the airport will further increase to nearer 26 million by 2030 ["The Scotsman 2005" [] £400m bill to expand airport] .

The main terminal building was built in 1977 by the Edinburgh architect Robert Matthew, and was substantially extended and modernised in the late 1990s. A £14m project to construct a new international pier, further increasing capacity, is expected to near completion in late 2006 [ "BAA Edinburgh Airport Press Release 2005" [^About%20BAA%20Edinburgh^Media%20Centre^News%20Releases^Results] Capital Airport Piers into the Future] .

A masterplan for the growth of the airport was published in May 2005 ["BAA Edinburgh Airport 2005" [] Edinburgh Airport Masterplan] indicating that the main terminal building will need to be increased in size, new aircraft hangars, maintenance facilities, and cargo handling facilities will need to be constructed. The possibility of a second runway built on land to the north of the current airfield, has been mooted, to cope with the forecast growth in air traffic. A new air traffic control tower was opened in October 2005.

Currently the airport is connected to the city centre by a dedicated bus link operating from the main terminal building to Waverley Bridge. A new tram link from the airport to the city centre and Leith is currently under construction, and is due to commence operation in 2011.

Bus transport

Bus services

Bus transportation is the principal means of public transport in Edinburgh, with an extensive bus network, covering all parts of the city, its suburbs and the surrounding city-region. Edinburgh is widely regarded as having one of the most extensive bus services in the country, with some of the highest patronage figures in the UK outside London ["Tramtime" [] Why Trams and not more buses?] . The number of bus trips taken by Edinburgh residents in any one year is 188, more than double the national average, with a growth rate of 27% over the period 1998 to 2005, representing an annual increase of around 4% ["Edinburgh Evening News, June 2005" [] Bus Passenger Growth stays in the fast lane]

There are two major bus operators in Edinburgh:

*Lothian Buses - the main provider of bus services in the city.
*First Edinburgh - Part of the First Group.

Lothian Regional Transport was the precursor to Lothian Buses and was formed in 1986 after bus services were de-regulated by the Transport Act 1985. Lothian Regional Transport changed its title to Lothian Buses in 2000. It is a publicly owned company with Edinburgh City Council having the 91% controlling stake in the company with the remainder divided between the local authorities of Midlothian, East Lothian and West Lothian. Lothian Buses also run the Airport Express shuttle between Edinburgh Airport and the city centre ["Airport Express Bus Service" [] Edinburgh Airport to the City Centre] , as well as a network of night buses operating on popular routes between 11pm and 6am.

Both First Edinburgh and Lothian Buses operate a day ticket system, allowing unlimited travel on their buses during the day for £2.50. A single flat fare of £1.10 for adults (£1 if bought from an on-street ticket machine before boarding), 60p for children between 5 and 15, applies to one-way journeys with most buses running at intervals of between 10 and 20 minutes during the day and a reduced service after 7pm. ["Edinburgh University Accommodation Services" [] Public Transport in Edinburgh]

As well as local services within the city, several companies offer inter city services between Edinburgh and various other cities within Scotland and the UK. Scottish Citylink offer services from Edinburgh to places such as Stirling, Perth and Glasgow, and Megabus operates budget services between Edinburgh and Glasgow and London.

Edinburgh's main bus station is located on St Andrews Square in the city.

Bus corridors

In December 2004, a 1.5km long guided busway - "Fastlink" - was initiated between the west Edinburgh suburbs of Stenhouse and South Gyle, parallel to the railway line from Haymarket to South Gyle. There are four passenger halts on the busway at Broomhouse East, Broomhouse West and Saughton East and West. It is expected that the busway will be used in future for the 3-line Edinburgh Tram Network. Tram Line 2, which will run from the city centre to Newbridge in the west of Edinburgh, will eventually run on the corridor presently occupied by the Fastlink guideway. ["Transport Edinburgh Press Release December 2004" Launch of Edinburgh Fastlink]

Priority bus lanes on arterial routes into Edinburgh city centre, known as "Greenways", because of the distinctive green tarmac used to surface them - were introduced in 1997. Currently the main Greenways into the city are on the following routes:

A Traffic Regulation order bans general traffic from using these priority lanes during the day, restricting use to buses, taxis and bicycles. Red lines at the side of the road prohibit parking and stopping on Greenways as a measure to reduce the congestion faced by normal bus lanes caused by on-street parking. Most Greenways are operational between 7.30am to 9.30am and 16.00pm to 18.30pm Monday to Friday and 8.30am to 6.30pm on Saturdays. There are exceptions to this e.g. on Glasgow Road the Greenway is not operational at all on a Saturday and Sunday. On the main route into Edinburgh city centre from the west - the A8 - 55% of the 6.7km route is inbound bus lane, whilst 54% is outbound bus lane ["" [] Greenways - Edinburgh Case Study] . Lothian Buses and First Edinburgh are the main providers of bus services using the greenways scheme, with services every 12 minutes.


Edinburgh Waverley

Edinburgh Waverley is the main Network Rail station serving the city. Located in a ravine the heart of the city centre close to Princes Street Gardens, it serves over 14 million passenger journeys per year [ "Network Rail" [] Edinburgh Waverley] . It is a principal station on the East Coast Main Line between London and Aberdeen, and is the terminus as well as start point for many rail services within Scotland. National Express East Coast serves the main Edinburgh to London route. First ScotRail are the operating company for many routes within Scotland. First Transpennine Express and Cross Country provide the remaining services to long distance destinations via the West Coast Main Line.

Trains leave Waverley in two directions:
* Eastward for the suburban services to Newcraighall and the North Berwick branch line, and the East Coast Main Line to London King's Cross. The proposed reopening of the Waverley Route, which will reconnect several towns in the Scottish Borders to the railway network, will also enter Edinburgh from the east.

* Westward the line runs through a cutting near the cliffs of Edinburgh Castle and through Princes Street Gardens. It then passes through a tunnel before emerging at Haymarket Station. From there lines lead north to Fife, Dundee and Aberdeen over the Forth Bridge, west to Glasgow Queen Street railway station via Falkirk High and Lenzie or Glasgow Central Station, via Shotts, Motherwell & Cambuslang, north-west to Stirling, Dunblane and Inverness, and south-west via Carstairs to Carlisle and the West Coast Main Line. Another short branch line runs westward from Newbridge Junction to the town of Bathgate, which was re-opened after being closed by the Beeching axe. This is currently the subject of an extension proposal to connect with the Glasgow suburban network at Airdrie, opening up a third railway link to Glasgow.


Edinburgh at one stage had a well-developed rail network. Starting with the Edinburgh and Dalkeith Railway, whose terminus was at St Leonards on the east of the Old Town, and the Edinburgh, Leith & Newhaven Railway (later the Edinburgh, Leith and Granton Railway), whose terminus was at Canal Street (on the site of today's Waverley Station). The Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway opened in 1842. By the mid-20th century competition between the North British Railway and the Caledonian Railway, together with the conservatism of the city's local government, combined to make the network very inefficient, with much duplication of routes. Many stations closed down and, following the Beeching Axe in the late 1960s, the city was left with a skeleton network. The South Suburban line was left in place, mainly as a bypass for freight services to avoid the city centre. New stations have been opened on the existing lines at Brunstane, Newcraighall, South Gyle and Edinburgh Park in recent years.

Other stations and services

Edinburgh itself has a small suburban rail network - the backbone of which is the Edinburgh Crossrail - which commenced operations in 2002, running in an east-west axis across the city, linking the stations of Edinburgh Park, in the west with Haymarket, Waverley (in the city centre) and Brunstane and Newcraighall, to the east. The other stations in the city are South Gyle, Dalmeny (for South Queensferry), Slateford, Kingsknowe, Wester Hailes and Curriehill.

Haymarket railway station is the second major station in Edinburgh and is located in the heart of the west end of the city, which is an area of many offices and businesses, and is thus a popular station with commuters and busy at peak periods. Plans for the complete development of Haymarket are being developed, partly in response to the need for the station to improve access for disabled passenegers.

Both stations are served by trains travelling onward to other destinations in Scotland from Edinburgh Waverley, operated by First ScotRail:

Road network

The A720 Edinburgh City Bypass skirts the southern fringes of the city. The road was constructed between 1981 and 1990 and opened to motorists in sections. The road is one of the main trunk roads in east central Scotland linking vitally important routes such as the M8, the main route west to Glasgow, the A1 the primary route south to from Scotland to England, and the M9 to Stirling. The City Bypass is linked by the A902 to the A90 leading north out of the city.

Edinburgh itself is the hub of the A-road numbering system within Scotland, and many radial routes lead in and out of the city. Routes radiating from Edinburgh are as follows (in a clockwise direction):

*A1 - to Berwick upon Tweed and over the border into England.
*A68 - to Jedburgh then over the border into England as far as Darlington.
*A7 - to Galashiels and Hawick.
*A701 - to Peebles.
*A702 - to Carlisle, via M74.
*A70 - to Lanark.
*A71 - to Kilmarnock.
*A8 - to Glasgow (via M8) and Stirling (via M9).
*A90 - to Forth Road Bridge, for access to Fife, Perth, Dundee and northwards.

In order to alleviate traffic congestion in many areas, Park and Ride facilities have been provided at several points on the periphery of the city.

Traffic congestion

Like many cities, traffic congestion is a significant problem in and around Edinburgh, with 160,000 vehicles entering the city every day which is forecast to rise to 180,000 by 2016 ["Transport Edinburgh Congestion Charge Plan" [] Why is the City of Edinburgh Council proposing a congestion charging scheme?] . This is especially problematic in the rush hour periods of between 7.30am and 9.30am and 4pm -6pm. Increasing levels of traffic congestion in Edinburgh are generally attributed to the city's strong population growth as well as an expanding economy ["Scottish Executive, 2003" [] Scotland's Cities Review] . Areas in the future which are expected to suffer acutely from traffic congestion in Edinburgh include the western outskirts of the city, the waterfront, and the residential areas of the South East where there is a large amount of housing development. ["Edinburgh City Council, 2002" [] A Vision for Edinburgh] Notorious traffic hotspots in Edinburgh include the Straiton and Dreghorn junctions on the Edinburgh City Bypass and the A8000 from the Forth Road Bridge. The Newbridge Roundabout on the A8 western approach to the city and the Gyle Roundabout close to Edinburgh Park are other bottlenecks in the west of the city which suffer from congestion. The office and business developments at Edinburgh Park themselves generate a large amount of traffic in that part of the city, with the new Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters opening at Gogarburn ensuring that upwards of 20,000 people now work in this area ["Scottish Executive, 2002" [] West Edinburgh Strategy] . In the city centre itself, narrow, cobbled and winding streets in the Old Town as well as increasing restrictions on vehicles entering the city and strict parking regulations mean that traffic hotspots are common in the city centre itself. Queen Street, Charlotte Square and the western end of Princes Street are areas of significant traffic delay.


Park and Ride

Park and Ride Facilities have been provided on the outskirts of the city, such as at Ingliston near Newbridge in the west of Edinburgh with spaces for 535 cars, as well as at Hermiston on the Edinburgh City Bypass, Newcraighall in the east of the city and at Ferrytoll in Fife. The schemes consist of large surface car parks off the main roads into the city where buses take passengers from these peripheral facilities into the city centre via a number dedicated stops, thus cutting down on the number of cars making the journey into the congested city centre ["Ingliston and Hermiston Park and Ride" [] Edinburgh Park and Ride] . The Park and Ride schemes at Hermiston and Ingliston have been widely regarded as successful, with each attracting more than 500 motorists per day, preventing more than 50,000 car journeys into the city ["Edinburgh Evening News April 2006" [] Park-and-ride sites keep 500 motorists off roads every day] .

Edinburgh Congestion Charge

Following on from the implementation of the London congestion charge in February 2003, Edinburgh City Council announced plans to introduce a road tolls scheme to be put in place on main routes into the city. A postal referendum of Edinburgh residents was held between 7 February - 21 February 2005, with 74.4% of those voting no, announced on 22 February 2005. The system would have operated in a broadly similar fashion to the one in London, with two cordons - an inner cordon and an outer cordon operating from Monday to Friday. A flat charge of £2 would have applied to vehicles entering the city boundary - by passing the outer cordon, or those entering the city centre by passing the inner cordon. This charge would have applied no matter how many times a vehicle crossed both cordons. Cameras with automatic number plate recognition technology would have been placed at the entry to both cordons, which would record the registration numbers of vehicles passing them. At the end of each day numbers would have been recorded against received payments. Paying would have been done electronically via the internet, text message or at specialised payment terminals in shops, where daily, weekly, monthly and yearly passes would have been available.

The proposal faced strong opposition from city centre retailers who were concerned about the impact it would have on their trade as well as a number of political parties. Following the no vote, the City council abandoned plans to introduce road tolls in Edinburgh.

Improvements to public transport

In an attempt to discourage car use and increase patronage of public transport - Transport Edinburgh, in the integrated transport delivery authority of Edinburgh City Council has embarked upon an extensive drive to improve public transport in the city. These include new railway stations, improvements to roads, pavements and footways, easier ticketing arrangements on buses, new bus shelters, pedestrian crossings and refuges, easy access buses, car parking payment by mobile phone and a real time bus tracker service in place at many bus stops and bus interchanges in the city ["Transport Edinburgh, 2006" [] Transport Edinburgh Projects] . This is in addition to the forthcoming Edinburgh Tram Network, major improvements to Edinburgh Waverley and Haymarket railway stations, including new platforms to cope with new routes and increased passenger numbers as well as new railway lines opening to Airdrie and Bathgate, and Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders.

Other transport

Cycle network

Since 1999 the percentage of all trips in the city of Edinburgh made by bicycle has risen by an eighth, however travelling by bicycle still accounts for less than 2% of all trips taken by Edinburgh residents, with bicycle use lower than in many other European cities such as Amsterdam or Paris. ["Edinburgh City Council Local Transport Strategy" [] Chapter 6.8 - Cycling] Like most cities cycling is seen as a clean, environmentally friendly method of transportation, which needs little space, the provision of few, inexpensive facilities as well as a means of attempting to cut down on traffic congestion.

At present there are around 75km of off-road cycleways in the Edinburgh area, with a similar length on on-road cycleways in the city. ["Edinburgh City Council Local Transport Strategy" [] Chapter 6.8 - Cycling] . Greenways, which are the car-free bus corridors on the main radial routes into the city centre double up as cycle lanes.

Many improvements in facilities for cyclists in Edinburgh can be attributed to Spokes, the Lothian Cycle Campaign, formed in 1977.


Given that Edinburgh is a small, relatively walkable city, travelling by foot is a possible, if necessary means of transport for the majority of citizens who live, work or visit the city. Like most urban zones pedestrian density is at its highest in the commercial core of the city, where there the majority of shops, businesses and offices are located, with pedestrian density tailing off rapidly through the Inner City, to the suburbs. In Edinburgh, pedestrian density is at its highest around Princes Street, George Street, Rose Street, the Royal Mile, the North and South Bridges as well as George IV Bridge. These are the areas where the majority of city centre shops have their premises, as well as bars, restaurants and pubs, as well as tourist attractions such as the Scott Monument, Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse are situated.

Unlike Glasgow most of the city centre is not pedestrianised, with the exception of Rose Street (parallel to Princes Street), which is pedestrianised along its length. There is, however, a plan to pedestrianise a large section of the Royal Mile - one of the main tourist streets in Edinburgh- from the junction of George IV Bridge (Melbourne Place) to the junction with North Bridge ["The Scotsman, October 2005" [] Capital approves £2m clean-up for Royal Mile] . This is an area with pavement cafes and bars with tables outside.

Future plans

Following elections to the Scottish Parliament in May 2007, the Scottish National Party formed a new minority government. As of June 2007, both the tram project and rail link to Edinburgh Airport (described below) were scrutinised by the Scottish Executive with a view to possible cancellation, largely on grounds of cost. The Auditor General for Scotland was asked to consider the issue of value for money and gave a favourable response for the tram project.


It is anticipated that by July 2011 Edinburgh will have a Light Rapid Transit line, using new trams, connecting the Edinburgh International Airport on the western edge of the city, with Haymarket, Princes Street and St Andrews Square in the city centre, and the redeveloped waterfront areas of Leith, Granton and Western Harbour.

The planning, design and construction of the tram network is being overseen by the City of Edinburgh Council's wholly owned company Transport initiatives edinburgh (tie). The Scottish Parliament gave legislative consent to the parliamentary bills, required for the project to commence, in March 2006. Construction of the network was originally scheduled to start in Spring 2007, beginning with the repositioning of the network of gas and water mains that will lie under the proposed routes. Work finally started in July 2007.

The estimated cost of the scheme is anticipated to be in the region of £592m, with a contribution of between £450m-£500m from the Scottish Executive and £45m from Edinburgh City Council ["Transport Edinburgh 2006" [] Trams in Edinburgh - Frequently Asked Questions] .

There has been recent controversy surrounding the construction of the tram network, with worries over escalating costs ["Edinburgh Evening News January 19 2006" [] Costs derail capital tram line] and disruptions due to construction ["Edinburgh Evening News May 22 2006" [] The road's just too tram steep] ["Edinburgh Evening News May 16 2006" [] Is there trouble in the pipeline for trams network?] . Following a vote in the Scottish Parliament on 27 June 2007, it was agreed to continue with the tram project - despite the opposition of the SNP minority government. [ [ BBC NEWS | Scotland | Edinburgh and East | Climbdown after transport defeat ] ]

Edinburgh Airport Rail Link (EARL)

There is currently no rail link to Edinburgh Airport, with the nearest railway stations being at Edinburgh Park and South Gyle, some distance from the airport.

The former Labour and Liberal Democrat coalition administration in Scotland (1999-2007) proposed a rail link, with plans for completion by 2010. Such a link was viewed as necessary because of the growth of road traffic in the immediate vicinity of the airport, meaning the existing road network in the area is operating at maximum capacity or nearing capacity. Furthermore, in comparison to other BAA plc airports in the UK a relatively low proportion of Edinburgh Airport passengers use public transport (19%) with most journeys being by private car (49%) ["Edinburgh Airport Rail Link Factsheet May 2006 [] Why is Earl needed?] . The rail link would have been connected to the main Edinburgh – Glasgow line by a new railway line via Winchburgh and Edinburgh Park station. A second link would have joined the Fife lines to this route prior to reaching the airport station. The rail link would also pass under the runway and split westward near Kirkliston towards Glasgow and Stirling and eastward to Fife and the North, and would require the construction of a new subsurface railway station in front of the terminal building. ["Earlproject" [] Edinburgh Airport Rail Link Plan] . A parliamentary bill was submitted to the Scottish Parliament ["Scottish Parliament Private Bills 2006" [] Edinburgh Airport Rail Link Bill] which needed to be considered and approved before construction could take place. The Bill received Royal Assent on 19th April 2007 [ [ Edinburgh Airport Rail Link Bill] ] . Initial estimates suggested that the scheme would have cost around £500m ["Edinburgh Airport Rail Link Factsheet May 2006 [] Why is Earl needed?] .

The new SNP minority administration planned to scrap EARL as a manifesto commitment. Following a vote in the Scottish Parliament on 27 June 2007, it now appears unlikely that the EARL project will be implemented in its original form, however plans to build an overground station with direct rail access from the Fife line are expected to be progressed. [ [ BBC NEWS | Scotland | Edinburgh and East | Climbdown after transport defeat ] ]

High Speed Rail

Community and business leaders in Edinburgh have voiced support for the construction of a high speed rail link between Glasgow and Edinburgh to reduce current journey times between Scotland's two main cities ["The Scotsman, January 2006" [] Bullet train vision triggers call for extra funds from residents] . Currently First ScotRail operate a shuttle service, every 15 minutes between 7am and 7pm, between the two cities on the Glasgow to Edinburgh (via Falkirk High) line, with journeys taking around 50 minutes. It is estimated that a high speed MAGLEV system would halve the journey time between the two cities ["The Scotman March 2006" [] We can beat the bullet - train chief] . The UK Government has also conducted a feasibility study into ascertaining whether a high speed MAGLEV network between Edinburgh and London would be economically beneficial and thus cutting down on the growth of domestic air traffic between the two cities. Such a system would, however require a complete new infrastructure as it is not compatible with the existing rail infrastructure in place at the current time.


Edinburgh formerly had an extensive municipally owned tram system. Edinburgh Corporation Tramways were cabled-hauled until the early 1920s, then converted to electric traction. The last tram on Edinburgh's original system operated in 1956.

ee also

*Economy of Edinburgh
*First ScotRail
*Transport in Scotland

Notes and References


* [ Edinburgh Transport Statistics]
* [ Edinburgh City Council]
* [ Transport Edinburgh]
* [ Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (tiE)]
* [ Edinburgh Tram Construction]
* [ Lothian Buses]
* [ BAA Edinburgh Airport]
* [ FirstScotrail]
* [ / Fastlink]
*cite news
title = Edinburgh Transport Plans
publisher = The Scotsman
url =
accessdate = 2007-10-02

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