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An endless battle to keep Tollcross trundling along

The reputation of Tollcross as a busy junction was established right back at the turn of the last century when one of the Capital's four tram depots was located there.

It was also not unusual to see horse-drawn carts trundling through the streets but, as the area developed as a shopping mecca and more cars took to the roads, the problems of traffic congestion worsened.

And despite a new traffic system being introduced in 1959, seven years later the issue had to be addressed again when Tollcross became the first place in Scotland to trial CCTV cameras.

By this time, Tollcross was widely known as one of Edinburgh's busiest road junctions and the three-week-long experiment was studied closely by all manner of officials.

Bizarrely, the control centre was based in a small room of a house on Lauriston Place, where members of the Highways and Road Safety Committee of the Town Council gathered to scrutinise the changing traffic patterns.

The pictures were beamed from a camera mounted on a hydraulic platform above the centre traffic island at the Tollcross junction.

And while councillors were impressed by the well-defined pictures, they raised concerns about how clear the images would be under the street lights of the winter evening rush hour.

More weatherproof cameras were erected in the weeks that followed, but the problem of traffic congestion failed to go away and, two years later, serious concerns were raised about its impact on public safety.

At the time, the junction was in close proximity to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and the fire brigade's headquarters.

And calls for urgent action were made after the traffic snarl-ups led to ambulances and fire engines being delayed.

The chairman of the Highways Committee, James Stack, attempted to allay fears by pledging to establish a yellow box junction at the top of Lauriston Gardens.

But councillor Charles Stuart said the move did not go far enough and suggested an extension of one-way streets would provide a solution.

He said: "Traffic lights change again and again and the traffic cannot move because of blockages at other junctions.

"It is all very well to paint little yellow boxes at junctions, but something much more positive must be done."

As the area was redeveloped, traffic congestion gave way to concerns about the lack of parking.

By the 1970s, owners of new businesses became incensed about the lack of parking, especially during busy Saturdays.

The Tollcross Traders Association led the campaign for more parking spaces after its members claimed redevelopment had resulted in a rebirth of community spirit.

But too many cars on the road wasn't the only cause of traffic chaos. Locals were left shocked following the dramatic and sudden collapse of a tenement building in Earl Grey Street in 1974.

Witnesses saw a seven-inch crack appear before the tenement crashed to the ground, knocking over a street lamp and sending debris smashing through shop windows.

Rush-hour traffic was brought to a standstill and nearby business premises, including James Grant and Company's furniture store, were damaged.

Hugh Hanley, a security guard at the store, said: "The crack got wider and wider. In an hour, it widened about six or seven inches. It was obvious the tenement was coming down.

"Suddenly it collapsed straight out, like a soldier falling on parade. There was a huge crash and debris went flying through our windows. For long enough afterwards, there were clouds of dust. You could not see the end of the street for lime dust."

Source: Linda Summerhayes, Evening News

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