A7 - A68 - A720

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Where is it?

Junction diagramHalfway around the A720 Edinburgh City Bypass, where two of the city's radials cross the bypass and each other.

It was nominated by Chris Williams.

What's wrong with it?

Imagine, if you will, the city of Edinburgh. Around its southern fringe lies the A720, otherwise known as the City Bypass, a grade-separated dual carriageway (complete with hard shoulders and motorway-like restrictions) that speeds traffic around the urban area. It's like some kind of dream.

However, largely thanks to this junction, if the A720 is any kind of dream, it's the sort that makes you wake up screaming at three in the morning. It's pretty obvious from the diagram what's wrong with it — it's a roundabout. Traffic chaos day and night is caused by the fact that this junction, in the middle of what is effectively a motorway, is one flyover short of adequacy.

Naturally, traffic engineers have done their best to entertain those stuck in the congestion this roundabout causes by surrounding it with cheery red, amber and green disco lights.

Why is it wrong?

There are two schools of thought on this one, and each is equally plausible. The first is the more optimistic; when the Bypass was designed and built it was thought that the volume of traffic entering or exiting the road here would be a significant proportion (ie, the flows of traffic between the two arms of the A720 would not be heavy enough to warrant grade separation). With the benefit of hindsight (and all the thinking time that a typical Sherriffhall traffic jam permits), it's clear as day that this idea was wrong.

The other, more frightening, answer is that the junction is built on the site of old mine workings, and that this made grade separation impossible. The ground is not stable enough to support a flyover. This is backed up by the fact that the design of the junction does not even leave room for future grade separation. If this reason is true, then the future looks grim for regular users of this junction.

What would be better?

A flyover and a free-flowing A720. Or an underpass. Anything. Please. Quickly.

Right to reply

Hate this junction? Or do you think it hasn't had a fair trial? Make yourself heard! Post a comment.

These are the most recent comments on this junction. You can see all comments if you prefer.

March 2015

Ian Phillips has news:

There are now three options being considered to make the junction free-flowing. One includes closing the junction and making the nearby Gilmerton exit work for all directions. Still some time until any decisions to be made though! Expect nothing before 2018!

March 2012

Fraser has a railway perspective:

40 years in the railway industry (until Oct last year), meant I always tried to keep up to speed on rail developments. Looking at the detailed OS map available off the link, the re-opened Waverley route will pass about 300 metres east of the roundabout. The bypass was built years after the railway closed, so there is no bridge, and never was one. So the works to put a bridge in is a golden oppportunity to sort this junction out and put in a flyover.

Lets hope the Scottish Executive takes this opportunity !

I'm not holding my breath... -Ed.

February 2012

John Gallacher writes:

I think part of the issue is that the route of the Waverley rail line, closed in the 1960s but due to be reopened, runs under the bypass at Sheriffhall.

July 2010

Anonymous takes the broad view:

This junction always reminded me of another bad junction - Broadway, on which the M1(NI) terminated. Recently they undertook a project to create an underpass, despite challenges (redirecting rivers and flooding).

Edinburgh is twice the city Belfast is (and much nicer IMHO), I can't see why they can't "Broadway" Sherrifhall.

December 2009

Grumpyscot lives up to his name:

The whole roundabout problem is exacerbated by Edinburgh Council's siting of a Park and Ride on the Edinburgh side A7. This is meant to prevent traffic going into Edinburgh, but means that people who live on the south or east of the roundabout have to negotiate the roundabout to get to the park and ride. If only they had build the P&R on the east side of the roundabout, the traffic on the roundabout would have been significantly reduced.

I also agree about the A6106 - that road should be diverted to join the A7 further east - say at the park and ride.

With thanks to Thomas Davies for information on this page.