Plans discussed to tackle Edinburgh station congestion

Proposals to improve congestion in and around central Waverley train station in Edinburgh are being discussed by the city council and Network Rail, following a December study showing EU air pollution limits are being breached inside the station.

Plans under discussion include controlling taxi access to Waverley station, improving pedestrian and cyclist facilities, extending 20mph and 30pmh speed limits nearby and the possible implementation of a low emission zone (LEZ) in the city.

Edinburgh, with Waverley train station in the centre. A series of plans are under discussion to improve congestion in the city

Edinburgh, with Waverley train station shown in the centre – a series of plans are under discussion to improve congestion in the city

They are part of a £1 million council project to tackle congestion in Edinburgh, which will be discussed by councillors at the Transport and Environment Committee on Tuesday (January 15).

A study carried out inside the train station last October on behalf of Network Rail measured both nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter PM10 levels in breach of the European Commission’s annual average air quality standards.

Waverley is the main train station in Edinburgh, handling around 700 trains a day with as many as three taxis entering the station every minute during peak times, according to Network Rail. It is located in the centre of the city under a large glass roof.

Under the proposals, a controlled entry system would limit Network Rail-authorised taxi access to Waverley station, which according to the council “…will not be able to accommodate the current level of taxis entering the station at peak times.”

Also, works on Waverley Bridge and Market Street outside are being proposed to provide replacement facilities for those previously provided within Waverley Station, such as taxi and passenger drop-off points.

Councillors will also look into introducing a LEZ in the city, a scheme that would see owners of older vehicles that do not meet European diesel emissions standards have to pay a charge to drive in the zone, or fit a filter on the vehicle.

Other proposals for Edinburgh as a whole include potentially extending 20mph speed limit zones in the city to all residential and shopping streets and potentially extending 30mph speed limit zones to all streets featuring shops, houses or businesses.

Edinburgh city councillor for transport, Lesley Hinds, said: “With up to three taxis a minute entering the station at peak times, it’s crucial that we find ways of managing the traffic on Market Street and Waverley Bridge. The proposals up for approval offer a range of measures which will do just this, as well as enhance the amenity of the whole area.”

She added: “The designs the council has produced, coupled with Network Rail’s investment into new lifts and escalators, will make it much easier for everyone to access Waverley Station as well as improving the surrounding area with resurfaced carriageway and footways and a new pedestrian crossing at the junction of Market Street and Waverley Bridge.”

If councillors approve priorities recommended in the Local Transport Strategy (LTS) report 2014-2019 report this week, the proposals will then be put forward for consultation with the general public and key stakeholders.

Commenting on the public consultation, Lesley Hinds said: “This is a great opportunity to shape the future direction of transport in Edinburgh, and we’re keen to hear the views of as many members of the public and interest groups as possible.”

Waverley station

Edinburgh environment consultancy Ethos Environmental carried out a study on behalf of Network rail to measure air quality levels inside Waverley train station, the results of which were acquired by Scottish newspaper the Sunday Herald in December.

The study found that levels of particulate matter (PM10) inside the train station varied from 73 to 92 micrograms per cubic metre compared to the Commission’s air quality standard of 50.

Average levels of nitrogen dioxide measured inside the station varied from 205 to 304 micrograms per cubic metre, far higher than the annual average air quality standard of 40 stipulated by the European Commission.

Network Rail, which runs the station, commissioned the study following various refurbishment and ventilation improvements completed in early 2012. The study was carried out between 15 October and 6 November 2012 and the results were released to the Scottish newspaper the Sunday Herald in December.

However, the study concluded that the recorded results of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide are “…typical of such work environments,” and “do not suggest that station refurbishment alterations have obviously impacted negatively on air quality in general, or employee exposures specifically.”

With regards to station employee exposure to pollution inside the station, the study concluded that “…use of respiratory protection for those employees engaged for significant periods at the ticket barriers is not warranted.  Respiratory protection is a control measure that places significant demands on the user, and also in terms of management control.”

It continued: “Use of RPE (respiratory protection) by staff would also present a negative – indeed, probably alarming – image to passengers and others using the station.  Whilst such perceptions are not in themselves sufficient grounds for not utilising RPE, it is felt that the airborne levels of the various pollutants measured are insufficiently high in comparison to occupational exposure standards to warrant such an intrusive and visible control measure.”

The report is available to read here.