A new cross party campaign – led by members of Unite the union and including councillors from the Conservative Party, Scottish Socialist Party, independents as well as local businesses – has been launched in Edinburgh to try and stop the proposals to extend the Edinburgh Trams system down Leith Walk to Newhaven – a decision on which is due to be made in March. The campaign claims that the city should be concentrating on a bus led transport system and that the money needed for the trams would be better off spent on other council services.
Charlie Tams, spokesman from the Stop the Tram Extension Coalition (STEC), explains further why they think the plan is misguided: “The Stop the Tram Extension Coalition has been formed to actively oppose the council’s misguided decision to spend millions of pounds extending the tram, at a time of huge public sector cuts in the Capital. We believe that Edinburgh’s future public transport needs can be best met by its publicly own bus company and award-winning green fleet. Most importantly, a bus-led public transport future would free up the £165m earmarked for the tram extension – meaning more money could be better invested in new schools across Edinburgh. We are taking our message directly to city politicians and to the people of Edinburgh, where we will be campaigning across the city centre, in addition to engaging directly with concerned local businesses.”
The SNP are currently the largest party in Edinburgh but only have a majority of one from the Conservatives with Labour then having the third most seats. It is not clear what effect this cross party support against the tram would have on any potential vote in March but at the very least it brings the debate back into the public domain. Whenever that decision is made it is always going to be controversial – whichever way it goes – as there is no getting away from the fact that the original construction period was problematic for all concerned.
Nick Cook, Conservative transport spokesman, commented: “The broad political support enjoyed by STEC speaks to the huge opposition many working people have to the SNP and Labour’s misguided and costly decision to extend the tram. With the multi-million-pound Hardie Inquiry already set to cost more than the Iraq War Inquiry, it is a double slap in the face to taxpayers to even consider extending the tram before its findings are known.”