February 2022

CCWEL: work begins after an arduous evolution

Work has at last begun on CCWEL, the long-awaited City Centre West-East Link cycleroute, a largely protected route from Roseburn in the west, through the city centre (George Street) and onwards to Leith Walk. It will also link to the residential and university area of inner South Edinburgh via the George Street to Meadows route (MGS), with work expected to begin there next year.

The central section of the route, George Street, comes under the separate George Street and First New Town project. in which the central 7m width of George Street is due to become a “cycle street” rather than having a segregated cycleroute. Spokes has made clear that this will only work as an effective part of the otherwise-protected CCWEL, and in terms of attracting families and new cyclists, if it is genuinely traffic-free (other than blue badge and, at restricted times, deliveries) with automated camera enforcement if at all possible.

First officially adopted as a Council objective in 2014 (see history below) and despite overall support in an initial consultation, CCWEL delivery suffered huge delays due to local objections fanned by a highly-seasoned campaigner, doubts by certain councillors and political groups, the Scottish Government’s labyrinthine rules on Traffic Orders, and a period of Council staff cutbacks. At times the project was under threat of being neutered into a ‘back of the houses’ route at Roseburn, or even scrapped and, due in large part to the delays, costs rose from £8m to £19m. The project is largely financed by Sustrans’s Scottish Government funding.

Interestingly, the George Street project has suffered even longer delays – first proposed in 2013, with work unlikely to start before 2023 at the earliest and not due for completion till 2025. For the full saga up to 2019, see page 5 here.

An event to mark the start of CCWEL work was held by the Council on 8 Feb 2022, attended by Edinburgh Transport Convener Cllr Lesley Macinnes, Patrick Harvie MSP, the Active Travel Minister, and children from Roseburn Primary. Cllr Macinnes said, “I’m thrilled that we’re now delivering the CCWEL, one of the largest pieces of safe walking, wheeling and cycling infrastructure the Capital has seen yet. It’s been really exciting to visit the site and see work get underway.

Questioned about the long delays suffered due to government regulations (see video above) Patrick Harvie said the Scottish Government “needs to cut through the processes and make these projects easier to deliver” .. this is welcome, but it needs action! Some process improvements have been made recently – but legislative change by the government is needed to fully deal with the problem (see below, ‘2018-2020 Inquiry‘).

The project is not perfect – we would have preferred a direct connection to and along Princes Street, wider protected sections and other enhancements – but is a massive step forward, being a substantial main-road space reallocation from car to active travel right in the city centre. Along with MGS and the (admittedly flawed) Leith Walk routes there will be protected cycle routes to and through the city centre from west, south and east.

Once cycle use builds up substantially in the coming years, as has happened in London’s protected routes, we will be seeking enhancements, and in particular will continue arguing for the Princes Street protected cycle facility which was refused when the first tramline was built, leading to many unnecessary tramline bike crashes and injuries, some serious.

Incidentally it is great to see that CCWEL project staff will be travelling to and between worksites by ebike rather than by van/car whenever possible – this and use of cargobikes should now be the norm on many projects, and we trust this will be used as a trial and exemplar.

CCWEL history

Despite the astonishing length and complexity of the history below, many aspects are not covered. Some further relevant documents can be found here, for example discussions on Randolph Place and the Rejuvenating Roseburn project. The history below largely covers the most controversial elements, getting political agreement for the entire project and for a preferred route, and then dealing with the objections, primarily from Roseburn area. A great deal of detail has therefore been omitted, including the less controversial sections to the east of George Street. However the Traffic Orders and funding for the entire route are now in place and work has begun.

  • 2011 Active Travel Action Plan – talks of cycleroutes to the city centre, but no specific mention of Roseburn to Leith Walk, and it is not shown on the included proposals map
  • 2014 Start of CCWEL process – the first time proposals for a full route from Roseburn to Leith Walk go to Transport Committee(?). Committee approves appointing consultants to undertake public consultation and identify a preferred route
  • 2015 Council approves consultation on preliminary design At this stage the project includes linking routes, notably a segregated route at East End of Princes Street; improvements at West End including crossing facilities from Lothian Road to connect with CCWEL at Charlotte Square; and quiet road facilities from Walker Street to the canal via the existing [albeit unsatisfactory] Conference Centre route. Sadly, all these linking routes were subsequently scrapped at different stages, to placate objectors, to merge into larger future transport projects, and/or to cut costs.
  • 2016 Jan-July Public consultation on the preferred route Spokes submission / Consultation report – overall strong support, but considerable objection from the immediate Roseburn area, following intensive door-to-door campaigning by an experienced objector. With elections next May, West Edinburgh councillors started raising strong doubts. Fierce meetings of the local community council, dominated by objectors, with the few people sufficiently brave to voice support often getting shouted down
  • 2016 May Roseburn Support Group created: an invaluable evidence-based and non-confrontational group of local people who supported the direct CCWEL route. The group rapidly grew in support and influence. A history of the group is here.
  • 2016 June/July Council proposes a choice at Roseburn, to try and placate the local objections and the now vocal opposition or doubts of some councillors: Option A (the original, direct, route) or Option B (a backstreet route avoiding Roseburn Terrace). Spokes response / Council reply
  • 2016 August A support ride of about 200 people was organised at short notice by the City Cycling Edinburgh online discussion forum immediately prior to the Transport Committee where a final decision on CCWEL was expected. Several Green, Labour and SNP councillors joined the ride to express their personal support. Opponents of the route also turned out, leading to interesting discussions, some heated!
  • 2016 July Council bid (successful) to Sustrans for CCWEL funding Council presentation / Spokes support statement
  • 2016 August Transport Cttee approves CCWEL but defers decision between Options A & B for further consultation. Social media calls it a ‘cop-out’ but in fact deferring the choice, and separating the A v. B decision from the overall CCWEL decision, was a politically astute move by then Convener Cllr Lesley Hinds. Conservatives and LibDems were strongly against Option A; Labour & SNP both had mixed views but it seemed likely SNP would vote against A, leaving only Labour and Green in support. Thus if A v. B had gone to a vote it seemed likely that Option B would have succeeded or, if not, a change of control at the election could have reverted to B or even scrapped the entire project. A final decision on A v. B, or modifications of them, following further consultation, was delegated to the Council’s Future Transport Working Group (FTWG), comprising one senior councillor from each party and relevant officers.
  • 2016 December FTWG approves CCWEL with Option A following some extremely heated consultation meetings with supporters and objectors. The approved plans included further changes to parking/loading in response to local shopkeeper concerns, and a promise to review the scheme after one year of operation, to help opposition parties agree to withhold further objection.
  • 2017 Delay due to project lead officer leaving the Council as part of widespread council staff cuts
  • 2017 November TRO/17/91 Roseburn-Haymarket stakeholder consultation Plans / Spokes comments & council response Note that legally all draft TROs must undergo a stakeholder consultation then, after any resulting changes, a public consultation/objection period
  • 2018 April TRO/17/91 & RSO 18/05 Roseburn-Haymarket published for public comment/objection. An RSO is a Redetermination Order, to change the use of areas of road or footway, as opposed to TRO which regulates traffic movement, parking, loading etc. The Roseburn opponents (and a few from Haymarket area) lodge formal objections
  • 2018 June TRO/17/91 & RSO 18/05 Committee report on objections to the two Orders. Spokes email to councillors. The Committee dismissed those objections which it had the power so to do, but certain types of unwithdrawn objection legally must now be referred to the Scottish Government for decision and a possible hearing/inquiry. The Committee however defeated a Lib Dem amendment (page 5), supported by the Conservatives, which sought to halt work on the project until the Scottish Government made its decision, and not to dismiss any objections even where it had the power to do so.
  • 2018-2020 Scottish Government Inquiry into objections to above RSO draft order. Inquiry website [note that all documents appear to have been removed other than the extensive Inquiry Report and the Decision Letter]. After two years the Order was approved with some very minor modifications, which the Council itself suggested. The amount of time and resource which the Council (and the Scottish Government) had to devote to the Inquiry was inordinate. Senior Council active travel staff were diverted from their normal work for many days in total, the Council supplied 81 separate documents and there were 7 site visits or hearing sessions. In contrast, in England, Redetermination Orders do not even exist, and these local decisions are up to the local council. [The TRO was also approved by the Scottish Government after a similar delay – we do not have documents on this, but the above RSO report suggests that it was some sort of parallel process alongside the RSO by the same Reporter].
  • The above process was widely regarded as crazy and, together with the legal labyrinth over the Traffic Orders to make Spaces for People schemes legal and permanent, prompted lobbying of the Scottish Government by a wide range of bodies, including the Council itself, the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Active Travel Group and organisations such as ourselves. The government accepted the need for change, consulted and modified some of the rules which it could under secondary legislation. However primary legislative change is still needed (including Q7a Q7c, Q11a here) to create a fit-for-purpose regime at a time of climate emergency.
  • 2019 May RSO & TRO for CCWEL phase 2, Haymarket to Randolph Cres [we don’t have the RSO/TRO numbers] The draft Orders brought objections, some of which again had to be referred to the Scottish Government. We do not have documents of the outcome, but we think the government had probably learned its lesson and decided to approve the Orders (after some months) without holding an inquiry, as we would have been notified of any inquiry since we had made a submission to the consultation on the Order. Committee report 20.6.19 outlining the objections. The advertised plans are in appendices to the report. Spokes response to the publicly advertised Orders. For Spokes comments at the earlier ‘stakeholder consultation’ stage, see para 1807 on this page.
  • 2020 April CCWEL Road Safety Audit – another huge process the plans had to go through, with multiple decisions having to be justified. For documents and plans, see para 2004 on this page.
  • 2020 July TRO/17/91 & RSO 18/05 Roseburn-Haymarket Orders finally approved by Scot Govt after inquiry (see 2018-2020 above)
  • 2020 Oct First, very short, section opens in York Place, Picardy Place to Elder Street – this is built by the St James developers, as it falls within their area and was covered by their earlier legal permissions
  • 2020 July – 2021 June Tenders & ‘Value Engineering’ Committee report 17.6.21 An initial tender was received in July 2020. Due to the delays caused by the objections and the Inquiry, costs had risen significantly, and well exceeded the Sustrans finance available. As a result, two rounds of ‘value engineering’ (i.e. cuts to the scheme) took place, occupying yet more time, some involving stakeholder consultation, including meetings with Spokes. Some of the cuts were cosmetic (e.g. using concrete instead of stone for footways) but sadly they included removing the Walker Street to Rutland Square link.
  • 2021 Oct Contract awarded, to Balfour Beatty Finance Cttee Report 7.10.21 / Project update newsletter
  • 2022 Feb Work begins, Monday 7 February

CCWEL resources

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