It has been a busy few days for the proposed extension of Edinburgh Trams from the current York Place terminus to Newhaven via Leith Walk with the results of an independent survey released – which has given predictably mixed results about the popularity of the plan – whilst the City of Edinburgh Council has announced details of a public consultation to help shape plans for the line – if it is approved by Councillors later this year.
The independent survey – conducted by Progressive Partnership who undertook 368 10 minute on street interviews on three different stretches of Leith Walk – has shown that more than half of those questioned (59%) believe the extension would benefit Leith although 91% were also satisfied with current transport provision on Leith Walk; obviously showing that you can be satisfied about something but still want more!
Other headlines from the survey were than 58% thought the tram would make it easier to get around and 42% believe it would be good for local business. Although 59% said it would benefit Leith only 56% said they would use the tram (it isn’t revealed whether these 56% are part of the 59% of if some who didn’t think it would benefit the area would still use it anyway!)
When asked about how public transport provision could be improved on Leith Walk the overwhelming most popular response was introduce a tram service with 38% giving this answer.
Unsurprisingly the thorny subject of disruption, delays and congestion resulting from the construction works was the main reason given by those who didn’t believe Leith would benefit from the tram.
Regardless of the results of this survey – or indeed any other survey undertaken – there is no doubt that even the idea of extending Edinburgh Trams along Leith Walk will always be controversial especially with the problems of the construction of the original line still easy to remember (to this end the Public Inquiry continues its slow progress). But despite this hopefully the long-term benefits will be seen by Councillors when they make their final decision later this year and Edinburgh can enjoy a public transport system that will be the envy of many capital cities around the world.
A six week public consultation will also launch on 19th March and this will provide the public, businesses and wider stakeholders with general information on the project, an opportunity to meet the team and specific details around traffic management during construction, support for business proposals and the outline road layout, ahead of final plans being drawn up.
Cllr Lesley Macinnes, Transport Convener on the Council, said: “When the Outline Business Case was approved by Council in September we pledged to dedicate the following year or so (ahead of the final decision) to establishing mutually beneficial relationships with local residents and businesses who would be most affected by construction works. We’ve been working very closely with the local community and our partners ever since to model traffic management plans and look at options for supporting businesses as much as possible if the project goes ahead. These plans have been developed taking on board lessons learned from the first phase of tramworks and the current traffic management arrangements in place around Leith Street. The recent Leith survey showed that a majority of residents think trams will make a positive difference to Leith. However, there are clearly some very real concerns about disruption and congestion during construction. This consultation gives people the chance to help shape how we manage things if and when work gets under way.”
As well as looking at the planned traffic management during the construction phase – which it is currently proposed would see the closure of Leith Walk northbound and a single lane open southbound, along with the closure of sections of Constitution Street for approximately 18 months – the consultation will be interested in the permanent design of the street. This would include a dedicated public transport lane – tram and bus – during the morning and evening rush hour.
Details of how you can take part in the consultation are available at http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/news/article/2450/tram_to_newhaven_public_consultation. This is just the first stage of consultation which is expected to continue until the end of the year.