Ken O’Neill, Lothians’ newest independent candidate, has called for a thorough audit of the Edinburgh Trams project. The call follows news that Edinburgh Council is ‘actively considering’ stopping the beleaguered project at Haymarket. This would mean that the trams would not run along Princes Street, Leith Walk or to Newhaven Pier. Mr O’Neill is concerned that given this was the initial plan for the project that it all calls into question the management and reality of re-introducing trams to Edinburgh.
Mr O’Neill said:
While I have supported the idea of re-introducing trams to Edinburgh, I have always questioned the proposed route, the ambition and the management of the project. Given the route would replicate two well-used and successful bus routes – the 22 and the Airport Link – I’ve never understood why Transport Initiatives Edinburgh thought this was a sensible idea. As far as I understood it, the trams were intended to cut down on congestion and pollution in Edinburgh and help to create a modern integrated public transport system. Since work started, the only thing that the project has achieved is the opposite – increased congestion as more people abandoned the buses and take to their cars, leading to increased pollution and a bus system that is suffering from the construction work and extra road traffic.
In Time for a Different Voice – A Manifesto for the Lothians, I call for Transport Scotland to take over the running of the trams project. That would have to start with a rapid audit of the work conducted to date and the cost to the public purse of continuing with the project. Only once we have this information can a decision be made whether we should supply further funding for the Trams or whether it is time to admit defeat. Transport Scotland were in charge of the Airdrie-Bathgate rail link, which opened on time and on budget.
The more important issue is ensuring the Lothians have an affordable public transport service, fit for the 21st Century. This integrated public transport network would cover all of the Lothians, not just Edinburgh. The public transport system in Edinburgh is very good, but it lacks connectivity with the outer regions, leaving passengers stranded at the outskirts of the city. One option, which I have long suggested is introducing a trolley bus that runs along Princes Street in a loop, possibly taking in Haymarket, Queen Street, Picardy Place and Leith Street. Introducing this would remove buses from along Princes Street and could lead to an extension of the Gardens. This would have to involve a re-think of the current bus network and how to adjust or change the current routes. In cities around the world they have introduced a tram system that goes were the buses don’t, and vice versa. Why could Edinburgh not have the same? Another option is examining whether re-introducing the suburban railway network, as advocated by Capital Rail Action Group amongst others, is a better solution.
- On Friday 29 April, the Edinburgh Evening News reported that Edinburgh Council’s Transport Convener, Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, admitted ending the route at Haymarket was being given “active consideration.”
- Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (tie)is a private limited company, wholly owned by the City of Edinburgh Council. The non-profit organisation was formed in May 2002 to project manage large-scale transport projects on behalf of the Council.
- Transport Scotland is the national transport agency of Scotland and is accountable to Scottish Ministers.
- Capital Rail Action Group campaigns for better public transport, especially railway development, in the Edinburgh area. They have campaigned for the development of an integrated and sustainable transport strategy for the Edinburgh travel to work area.
- Ken O’Neill is hosting a Question and Answer session on Tuesday 3rd May from 7-9 PM upstairs in the Hall at the Forest Café, 3 Bristo Place Edinburgh, EH1 1EY.