More tram expansion for Edinburgh?

A new strategy set to be approved by the City of Edinburgh Council could see further expansion of the Edinburgh Trams network in the future as they seek to transform the city centre and make cars as “guests in a pedestrianised environment”. The plans for new tram lines are sure to prove controversial and if anything did happen as regards this it would be very much medium to long-term before we saw any tracks on the ground.

The draft Edinburgh City Centre Transformation Strategy is looking at how the council (and partners) can meet the challenges faced as one of the UK’s fastest growing cities while improving community, economic and cultural life. The aim is that the reliance on car transport is reduced and the report states how transformational change can be made by improving public spaces and prioritising movement on foot, bike and public transport.

But what does this actually mean for trams? Within this 10 year period probably not a huge amount but the idea is that plans are developed for future implementation. The aspiration is that trams will serve both the university and hospital including a second cross city tram route with a loop through sensitive areas of the city. The plans include a line over the North Bridge to the BioQuarter and the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary plus a loop between Haymarket and University of Edinburgh.

Obviously with how long it takes new tram routes to be developed in the UK it is highly unlikely anything will be approved in the 10 years of this programme but it is planned that in years 4 to 6 there would be a trial of a city centre public transport loop which would help to inform potential studies for a second cross-city centre tram route. Then in years 7 to 10 a full business case would be developed for tram line three. Concerns have already been expressed that the line would go through sensitive areas which several listed buildings which may change the environment.

The report also suggests that there could be better integration of the tram and rail network at Edinburgh Waverley to improve passenger numbers although no details of how this could be done are given. For anyone who has visited Edinburgh you will be aware of the distance between the railway station and the closest tramstop in St Andrew Square.

Cllr Lesley Macinnes, Transport and Environment Convener, said: “This is an exciting and ambitious strategy, one which will deliver transformative benefits across the city and for a whole range of people travelling to and within Edinburgh. We want everyone to share in Edinburgh’s success and reimagining our city centre and its purpose will help make this happen. Here we have a blueprint to move the city forward. The proposals are designed to prompt debate – they aren’t finalised designs or ideas. They are examples of what we could do to deliver the city centre that residents are telling us they want. By creating public spaces that are more welcoming and enjoyable, making walking and cycling in the city centre easier and safer and improving access to public transport networks we want to equip the city for the future. Key to achieving this is to create a consistent and coordinated approach to city centre planning and management. This means continuing to link the Transformation Strategy with policies and projects including Low Emission Zone, City Mobility Plan, City Plan 2030.”

It’s ambitious – but then aren’t these plans always ambitious – and whether we do see a further expansion of Edinburgh Trams remains to be seen, and may not only be down to this plan being approved by the Council in May but also how the Trams to Newhaven project goes.

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