Roundabout work hit by fresh delays

WORK to remove a busy city roundabout has slipped another month behind schedule, with the cost of the £2 million project soaring over budget.

Attempts to replace the Seafield roundabout in Portobello with traffic lights ran into difficulties in November after engineers discovered that temporary traffic management measures were confusing drivers and creating a "serious risk" of collisions.

The measures were abandoned and work on the roundabout was not expected to be completed until February or March.

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But now the city council has admitted that the junction will not reopen until the end of March at the earliest, with the work not fully completed until mid-April – six months later than planned.

The dates could slip even further out, with bad weather being blamed for a project which is now expected to come in over budget.

Local Labour councillor Ewan Aitken today accused the ruling administration of incompetence over its handling of the work, adding that Edinburgh had turned into "Gridlock City".

He said: "I am astonished at the level of incompetence of the SNP/Lib Dem administration.

"Six months late, way over budget, and we still don't know when roads are going to be opened. Welcome to Gridlock City."

Planners took the unpopular decision to close Portobello High Street to traffic in November after it was discovered that the temporary traffic lights were too dangerous.

It had been hoped that all five roads approaching the roundabout could remain open during the work, but the plans had to be ditched after it emerged that the temporary traffic management measures were not working.

Work on the site started again on January 5 following a city-wide two-week embargo for Christmas.

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Retailer Carol Imato, of Get Creative on the High Street, said the closure of the road had hit businesses hard, but said many local businesses were "past caring".

She said: "The whole thing is ridiculous. We haven't heard anything from the council. They just don't seem to care.

"You can fight with them until you're blue in the face but it doesn't make any difference."

Last month, in a letter to councillors, one of the city council's senior officers explained that temporary traffic signals, which came into force on August 6, had confused motorists, causing them to drive slower than normal.

This meant vehicles were not clearing the roundabout before traffic began approaching from the opposite direction.

The official said it was "unacceptable" that the design created a "serious risk" of a head-on collision and meant the previous layout had to be reinstated.

A council spokesman admitted the cost of the project would rise because of the delays but would not say by how much.

City transport convener Councillor Phil Wheeler said: "The contractor hopes to have the junction open to traffic by the end of March but, as with any project of this nature, this is subject to change.

"The council has no control over factors such as the weather.

"Regular contact is being maintained with the contractor to monitor progress and costs."