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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 February, 2005, 22:50 GMT
Congestion plan: 'The only way'
Mountain bike
Sustrans want to see more people ditching their cars
Chas Booth works for transport charity Sustrans which encourages people to walk, cycle and use public transport.

Sustrans believe that charging drivers to enter Edinburgh city centre is the only "realistic" solution to pollution and congestion in the city.

Mr Booth told BBC Scotland's news website that blocking the move will lead to years more problems.

The plans, to be voted on by residents this month, will see a 2 charge for passing through designated zones.

Sustrans believes that the proposed congestion charge and associated transport investment for Edinburgh will bring huge benefits.

This scheme is the only realistic proposal for reducing traffic growth; without it, traffic throughout the city will inevitably continue to increase, together with all its associated problems.

By decreasing motor traffic and investing the charging revenue in improved pedestrian, cycling and public transport facilities, the proposals would improve the city for everyone.

The benefits of increased use of sustainable modes of transport and reduced use of the private car include more pleasant streets, reduced pollution, including carbon dioxide emissions which lead to global warming, decreased noise, and fewer traffic collisions and casualties.

Less traffic on the streets, coupled with better cycling and walking facilities, will encourage people to walk and cycle more

This is well illustrated by the experience in London, where the congestion charge has successfully reduced congestion within the charging zone by 30%.

Pollution, carbon dioxide emissions and traffic collisions and casualties have all fallen.

In addition, according to Department for Transport provisional estimates there has been a 30% increase in cycling traffic and a 50-60% shift from car journeys to public transport.

There is also a potential health dividend.

Sustrans believes that less traffic on the streets, coupled with better cycling and walking facilities, will encourage people to walk and cycle more, helping more people achieve the recommended minimum level of daily physical activity without which they are at higher risk of a range of serious health problems.

There are also the benefits of a reduction in air pollution, decreased noise and fewer casualties from fewer traffic collisions.

'Bigger picture'

We understand the concerns of those living on a small number of inter-cordon streets that the charge may lead to an increase in traffic in their neighbourhood.

Similar concerns were raised before implementation of the London charge, but these have proved unfounded: no significant rat-running has occurred.

Modelling data presented to the Edinburgh public inquiry concluded there may be a traffic increase in some inter-cordon streets, but less than 2% of Edinburgh's 4,000-plus streets would be affected.

The overall increase in traffic between the cordons is likely to be around 0.2%.

Without the charge, the Scottish Executive expects an increase on all Edinburgh's streets of 27% by 2021.

No politician within the UK is likely to propose serious steps to counter congestion for many years

Meanwhile, 10m has been set aside for mitigation of any increased inter-cordon traffic, which would be in addition to Edinburgh's continued expansion of their Safe Routes to Schools and Slower Speeds schemes.

In conclusion, Sustrans believes it is essential to see the bigger picture: the Edinburgh scheme is a marvellous opportunity to improve conditions for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users.

The inquiry concluded that it is likely to reduce traffic in the city as a whole, which will bring benefits for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users.

Meanwhile, the implications of a no vote are severe: no politician within the UK is likely to propose serious steps to counter congestion for many years if the Edinburgh proposal is defeated, while traffic, congestion and pollution will continue to rise.

A yes vote, in contrast, will help promote sustainable transport both within the city and around the country.

Congestion plan: 'A double noose'
02 Feb 05 |  Scotland


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