Posts filed under 'Edinburgh'

Airplane III – the disconnection

Add comment September 25th, 2010

On Thursday I took my friend to the airport for her flight back to Amsterdam. What a shambles! Of course getting there is the first problem in Edinburgh – the traffic as usual was hopeless despite it not being rush hour, but I’ll leave that for the next post. Arriving at the airport showed just how useless our transport systems and planning are.

First we have traffic lights at the roundabout that you reach after leaving the dual-carriageway. There is only one way to go at this roundabout – to the airport – so why put in traffic lights? All that happens is that traffic going to or coming from the airport is held up while the other sequence waits for any traffic that’s just come off the dual-carriageway to rejoin it; hardly a likely scenario. So that was the first holdup, but worse was to follow. As we approached the airport and the turnoff to the car park the traffic slowed to a crawl, including taxis.

When we eventually arrived we found that the usual entrance was blocked off but information was completely lacking and the diversion signs seemed to take you back out away from the airport. As a result people were stopping in a cramped area and letting their passengers out, blocking any other traffic from getting through. Clearly this was not the intended action but the Police Traffic Warden was just standing around making no attempt to advise anyone or prevent the blocking of the road. Maybe he realised that the situation he’d been left with was untenable.

I was forced to do the same as everyone else and then when I was finally able to get out from the confusion I drove around back to the now sole entrance to the short-stay car park to find part of it being dug up, but as usual very little in the way of help as to where to go. Had there been any indication that this was now the only way in and that this was the best place to use for dropping off travellers then this could all have been avoided.

Recently we’ve heard that the airport plans to charge people £1 for just dropping off travellers – an unbelievable action that is completely without justification, so it’s unclear whether this crazy situation is part of the preparation for that, but this is just another example of the way Edinburgh seems determined to discourage visitors. It’s bad enough that they are treated this way when trying to leave, but the welcome when they arrive is regularly just as bad. On a number of occasions I’ve returned from trips to find the arrival process positively hostile and the transport provision almost non-existent. On one occasion my father and I arrived at around 10pm on a Saturday night to find that there were no taxis for an hour – the many tired and irritated people, many with young children, forced to queue with no seating wore expressions of astonishment at the lack of facilities. The bus and taxi points seem to be in different places on every visit and like everything else are poorly and confusingly signed even in English, and there seems to be no sensible long term plan for protecting people from rain and bad weather – the glorified bus shelters doing very little. Compared to most international airports there is virtually no signage in foreign languages. Generally the feeling is that no-one cares about visitors and the impression they get on arrival.

Meanwhile the tram system – if it ever gets finished which is looking doubtful – will not go to the terminal but will stop at a park-and-ride from where travellers will have to board a shuttle bus. Of course most European cities have trains from their airports. In Zurich they run under the airport with escalator connections and you never have to step outside. In Amsterdam the railway can have you in the city centre in minutes, in Frankfurt, in Brussels, in countless other cities it would be unthinkable to not have a railway connection. Edinburgh has a railway line that passes close by, yet again and again the suggestion that it actually have a connection has been knocked back by planners and politicians. Short term finances are put ahead of any sort of vision, any sort of integration, any hint of green planning, or any consideration for passengers and visitors.

As my friend asked – why do we put up with it and why is it that no-one is held responsible? She was glad to be heading back to Holland where things are done differently. I wonder how many other visitors to Edinburgh never return?

Urban encounters and renewed faith

Add comment October 31st, 2009

I had a delightful surprise last night. On the way to visit a friend I passed by a park area near my home. The park isn’t lit and the trees surrounding it still have enough leaves to keep most of the streetlight out. Walking by, my eye was caught by a flicker of light and  looking closer I realised that it was coming from a mobile phone held by one of two youngsters of maybe 14 years old who were lying on the ground. Slightly puzzled I was about to move on when I caught another movement nearby – a bushy tail – which as my eyes adjusted to the darkness resolved into a young fox about 10 feet from the youths. As I stood and watched I realised that they must have been keeping very still for some time and that the flicker of light was from one of them trying to film the fox on his mobile.

They were doing an excellent job of avoiding disturbing the fox and I watched it move gradually closer until it was within about 2 feet of one of the boys, probably hoping that they had some food but showing remarkably little fear of them for such a streetwise creature. It was an enchanting sight.

The fox looked to be in good condition so there must be plenty of food available here in the centre of the city. Good to see such an animal flourishing so close to us. Equally encouraging to see two young lads appreciating it too. It’s so easy to fall for the trap of the tabloid media’s demonisation of young people, and assume whenever you see youngsters at night that they must be up to no good. These two were showing quite the opposite and clearly were delighted to be so close to a wild creature and must have been displaying great patience and reserve to be tolerated and trusted by that fox. I hope they managed to get some footage on their phone and that they continue to be enthralled  by the natural world.

Another Literary Loss

Add comment September 15th, 2009

Today saw an announcement of a further reduction in Edinburgh’s once famous publishing industry. The offices of Chambers, respected worldwide for their dictionaries and established way back in 1819 by brothers William and Robert Chambers, are to close. 27 staff will be affected and the remainder of the work will move to London.

Thus is cut another tie to the literary past – Chambers were the publishers of the Songs of Robert Burns amongst many important works. I remember when it was common to see their dictionaries in school classrooms and I think my dad still has the big thick dictionary he bought to help with my studies when I was young.

Apparently the heads of Chambers Harrap, as the company has been for some time, tried to sell it but couldn’t find a buyer. It seems we all use the internet for reference material these days and sales of dictionaries have declined markedly.

A sad day, and I fear my old boss Jimmy Thin will be spinning in his grave.

Transports of Delight (not)

Add comment May 22nd, 2009

Transport in Britain is awful. Transport in Edinburgh is approaching catastrophic.

A few months ago I decided to buy a car, something I hadn’t had since 2002. I had resisted this for a long time as I knew the Edinburgh traffic would make for a frustrating commute, and I enjoyed the mile walk across country from the railway station to my current place of work, but after three train cancellations in 10 days including being stranded in Uphall in freezing conditions by a complete shutdown of the line and being left without any information on alternatives, I decided enough was enough and a car was duly purchased.

Now of course this was the worst possible time to switch to road transport as Edinburgh is currently in the throws of traffic chaos with much of the city streets being dug up for the purpose of moving utilities to allow tram lines to be put in.

Now initially I was quite favourably disposed to the idea of a tram system. I am generally in favour of both trains and trams as efficient, fast, and clean methods of transport, having had positive experiences of trains in Switzerland, Austria and Germany, and of trams in cities like Amsterdam and Innsbruck. It’s just that in this country we seem to be completely incapable of running them – they are habitually late, often cancelled and hideously expensive.

If we were getting a real tram network in Edinburgh it might just be worth the current upheaval and disruption; but we’re not. Now that the Roseburn to Granton spur (which should have been cheaper since it ran on a former railway line) has been cancelled due to lack of money, we’re getting a single line. A line that won’t even be useful to most people. It won’t even go all the way to the airport – it’ll stop at a park and ride carpark where travellers will have to switch to a bus – and it will have only one stop in the whole length of Princes Street. Now we hear that some genius in the council has said that since the “diversions” have been so successful they now want to keep Princes St (currently completely dug up and fenced off for the forseeable future) not only free from cars but free from buses as well!!

Ignoring for the moment the incredible idea that having a city reduced to gridlock with the massive increase in pollution and fuel consumption and the loss of working time for our commercial centres could possibly be described as successful, the idea that buses should not be allowed to use the main street in the capital city (and incidentally one of the very few east-west corridors across the city centre) is staggeringly stupid. What do we tell tourists who want to visit attractions in the city centre?

‘No the buses don’t run to there any more and the trams are only an option if you are staying along the Glasgow Road cos they don’t go anywhere else in the city, and even then they only stop in one place along Europe’s most scenic street of over a mile in length.’

They’ll think we’re mad.

And the locals? Well the journey times will all be permanently slower because all the buses will have to take a tortuous route around to Queen Street which is where all the other traffic is as well.

But hey, half the shops in the city centre have closed down because of the tram-related road works in the last two years already, so why would anyone want to go into the city centre? The shopping has been crap for years and most people go to out-of-town centres, Livingston or even Glasgow to shop. And given the planning disasters that the council have perpetrated recently we’ll probably lose our world heritage status anyway so there’ll be fewer tourists. Hmm, why were we putting in trams again?

Listen up council. I’ve lived virtually all of my life in Edinburgh and I’ve always loved it. But if I were 21 again now I’d move somewhere else because you’re making it a nightmare.