MUSSELBURGH’S MSP has backed calls for improvements to the Edinburgh City Bypass – while suggesting extending a tram or light rail system to the Honest Toun.

Colin Beattie stressed that “radical thinking” needed to be done to create a solution, highlighting a possible extension of a tram or light rail system out to Musselburgh.

During a recent Holyrood debate, he said: “People meet the queues of traffic heading on to the bypass on the main roads around my constituency before they are even near the bypass. This causes more congestion and more air pollution.”

Mr Beattie later said: “You can go along the road at any time of the day and there are queues of traffic, mainly at Sheriffhall Roundabout.

“It is important that when the Government are looking at all the possible changes required to the bypass, all options are considered. The main priority should be that it is cost-efficient and done as soon as possible.

“It may be that it is more economic to extend a tram or light rail system out to the main population centres such as Musselburgh than to take on the eye-watering cost of enlarging the A720. This would also benefit the environment and be much faster than using road transport.

“Clearly more radical thinking needs to be done on creating a sustainable solution. I am not convinced that simply replicating a system which moves traffic speedily and efficiently into new choke points is the answer.”

Miles Briggs, Lothian region MSP who led the Parliamentary debate, said: “The transport information company Inrix in late 2016 identified the bypass as the most congested trunk road outside London, with four of the UK’s worst bottlenecks.

“I continue to be contacted by frustrated constituents and businesspeople who face frequent delays when using the bypass to commute or transport goods, especially but not exclusively at peak times or when there is an accident on the route. Many drivers tell me their experience is that these tailbacks and traffic jams are becoming more and more regular.”

He said that while proposed work at Sheriffhall would be an important improvement, he added: “It is only one part of what needs to be a far broader, long-term and coordinated programme of improvements to the bypass which will ensure traffic can keep moving in the decades ahead.

“This means looking at innovative solutions, assessing whether extra lanes will be needed, looking at the possible use of hard shoulders in some situations and utilising technology so the bypass can become a smart motorway.”

Mr Briggs called on the Scottish Government to take forward a feasibility study into widening the city bypass and new options to address the growing congestion.

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “The Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal includes investment of up to £120m in the A720 city bypass for the grade separation of Sheriffhall Roundabout and £20 million investment in public transport infrastructure in west Edinburgh.

“This investment will improve journey reliability and safety for all users and support significant planned investment in Edinburgh and South East Scotland.

“The Scottish Government remains committed to undertaking the improvements at the Sheriffhall junction at the earliest opportunity. We are continuing to progress the detailed design development and assessment of the preferred option and expect to publish draft orders in 2019.”