Motorists asked to plan their journeys and be aware of city centre traffic restrictions

Motorists are today asked to plan their journeys in Aberdeen before they leave and avoid cross-city centre routes due to some of the road space having been changed to pedestrian-only spaces for safe physical distancing.

People driving into the city are asked to use car parks, both public and private, on the side of the city they arrive in. The purpose of the request is to try and reduce the amount of traffic crossing through the city centre, particularly at peak times and at weekends.

Traffic has returned to almost 80% of pre-lockdown levels and the ask for motorists to plan their journey also coincides with shopping centres reopening today.

People coming from the south are asked to use, as much as practically possible, public and private car parks on the south side of the city centre, such as College Street Car Park or Union Square Shopping Centre.

People coming in from the north of the city or from the A96 Inverness/Elgin road are asked to use car parks in the north of the city centre such as East North Street or the Loch Street car park in Bon Accord Shopping Centre. Drivers coming in from the west can use Chapel Street or Denburn Car Parks. Drivers are also asked to make more use of the part-time Marischal Street car park which can be accessed via the bottom of Union Street and then onto Broad Street.

Motorists are also asked to walk, rather than drive, between the main shopping centre car parks at Union Square and Bon Accord’s Loch Street and, if they need to go to a car park not in the side of the city they live in, to use Anderson Drive or the bypass to gain access.

Aberdeen City Council transport spokesperson Councillor Sandra Macdonald said: “It’s really heartening to see people coming back into the city for shopping as it supports local jobs and the local economy. As lockdown eases,we’re asking motorists to plan their journey before they start so as to avoid congestion and reduce frustrations. The road changes and restrictions, particularly the pedestrianisation areas, are designed to allow people to walk in safety by allowing them to physically distance and avoid traffic.

“We ask people to plan their journey before they start and avoid cross city centre routes. Ideally they should go to a car park nearest to where they are coming in from, and if they can’t, to use Anderson Drive and the bypass to reach their destination.”

The works in Union Street and nearby streets include pedestrianisation on the section between Market Street and Broad Street, pedestrianisation on Upperkirkgate/Schoolhill from Flourmill Lane to Back Wynd, partial closure of Rose Street (Union Street to Thistle Street) and Chapel Street (Thistle Street to Rose Street) to traffic, Thistle Street is now one way from Thistle Lane to Chapel Street, Chapel Street is now one way from Thistle Street to Huntly Street, and a bus gate – which means service buses, taxis and cyclists only are allowed - has been installed on Union Street from just after the Adelphi to the Market Street junction.

Advanced signs highlighting the changes and restrictions have been put out including the large fixed electronic signs on the main arterial roads at Lang Stracht, Auchmill Road, Great Southern Road, the A944 near Westhill, and Wellington Road and portable electronic signs.

People are encouraged to use the existing Park & Ride services in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire rather than drive into the city centre as existing and proposed road closures and parking restrictions within the city centre are likely to cause congestion at peak periods. In Aberdeen, they include Kingswells, Craigbstone and Bridge of Don and, in Aberdeenshire, they are at Ellon and Newtonhill.

City residents are asked to use buses where possible, while following Scottish Government advice and instructions, and details of revised routes and stops, along with times and fares are available from First Aberdeen (firstgroup.com/Aberdeen) and Stagecoach (stagecoachbus.com).

Aberdeenshire residents and people coming into the city centre from further afield are encouraged to use train or bus services. Information on train and bus routes, timetables and fares are available from travelinescotland.com or 0871 200 22 33. The main train companies are Scotrail (scotrail.co.uk) and Virgin East Coast (virgineastcoast.com), and the main bus companies are Stagecoach (stagecoachbus.com) and Megabus (megabus.com).

The works are being carried out by Aberdeen City Council after a ringfenced £1.76million grant from the Scottish Government’s Spaces for People fund which is being administered by Sustrans, and measures taking place in several locations around the city include temporary pedestrianisation, pavement widening, bike lanes, and one-way walking.

The blue badge parking bays have been moved from Belmont Street to the nearby inset road beside Robert Gordon’s College.

The works being carried out around Aberdeen will help protect public health by reducing COVID-19 transmission in the city which will in turn reduce the number of cases NHS Grampian’s contact tracing team have to cope with, making their intervention easier and more effective. The temporary measures will further help the economic recovery of the city and allow people to continue to use active travel such as walking and cycling.

The city centre, and Union Street in particular, faces challenges because pavements are not wide enough to accommodate the current 2-metre level of physical distancing.

The program of works has been developed with NHS Grampian, transport organisation NESTRANS, and Business Improvement District operator Aberdeen Inspired, and organisations which have been consulted include city centre businesses, bus companies, taxi firms, Police Scotland, the Disability Equity Partnership, and other local groups.

City centre traffic must re-route to free up carriageway space for businesses, pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users.

Aberdeen City Council will continue to review, monitor, and evaluate the interventions while discussions are held with stakeholders, and when the measures are in place. The continual reviewing may mean changes to the interventions, and it is also a requirement of the fund, which is being administered by sustainable transport body Sustrans Scotland.

The length of time the temporary measures will be in place will be determined by NHS and Government guidance for physical distancing.