Edinburgh’s City Mobility Plan published – big expansion of the trams at the centre

The City of Edinburgh Council have published their City Mobility Plan which it is planned will deliver “a better connected, net zero carbon transport system, a healthier environment and a thriving, inclusive Capital”. In order to achieve this there will be numerous improvements to public transport in the region and that will build on the success of the tram system which is currently being extended to Newhaven in its first extension since originally construction.

In their press release the Council have said that this new plan has been “inspired by forward-thinking cities around the world embracing challenges posed by climate change, poverty and inequality”. After final approval at a meeting of the Transport and Environment Committee on Friday 19th February it will be adopted as the Council’s strategic approach to the sustainable and effective movement of people and goods to and around the city for the next decade, replacing the current Local Transport Plan.

When you look at the detail of the plan you could be forgiven for thinking “I’ve heard this before!”, as you probably have! The plan has been formulated following public consultation in 2020 where more than 1800 comments were made on the proposals, mainly supporting all policy measures outlined. In addition the Scottish Government have included many of these ideas in their own Strategy while also making it clear that the Council would be leading on the proposals.

Edinburgh had already set the ambitious target of net zero carbon emissions by 2030 and this plan will help them to achieve this. The “Path to 2030” has been split into three phases:

2023 – Delivering now, planning for the future

The Trams to Newhaven project will have been delivered with services starting that year. Elsewhere, a comprehensive review of bus routes will have taken place, a Low Emission Zone will be in operation, Workplace Parking Levy will have been introduced (subject to consultation and approval, Council owned public transport companies will have reformed to offer better integration and value for money

2025 – Bolder actions

A comprehensive mass rapid transit plan for the city and region will be completed, including new bus and tram systems, the business case for a north-south tram line will be agreed (linking Granton to the Bio-Quarter and beyond), a new bus route network will be in place, iconic streets will become increasingly traffic free, George Street will be transformed, the development of a strategic network of walking/wheeling and cycle routes will open up active travel for all, the 20 minute neighbourhoods concept will be starting to deliver local benefits.

2030 – A city transformed

The mass transit network – which will include trams – will have been extended west, the city’s seven park and ride facilities will have bene upgraded, some arterial routes will be used for mass commuting by bike, the city centre will be largely car free, a comprehensive city freight and servicing operations system will be in place, the implementation of the Waverley Station Masterplan will be underway.

But what does all this mean for Edinburgh Trams?

  • Trams to Newhaven – with construction having already begun services are due to commence on this line along Leith Walk to Newhaven in 2023. During the consultation stage of the original plan the first milestone point has been amended from 2022 to 2023 to better exhibit work already underway.
  • Granton to the South East of the city (BioQuarter). Various different options for the route are being considered (too many to include in this article!). A Strategic Business Case (SBC) will be developed (hopefully starting in February) with this being completed by September 2021 and taken to the Transport and Environment Committee in early Autumn 2021.
  • Potential extension towards Newbridge and west of Hermiston. This would be in the third stage and no details of exact timescales for its development have been given.

Cllr Lesley Macinnes, Transport and Environment Convener, said: “Edinburgh is a truly unique city in terms of its heritage, architecture and striking landscape, home to some of history’s greatest innovators. Now we want to push the boundaries as we look to the future of transport and mobility here. The finalised City Mobility Plan recognises the need to revolutionise the way we move around the Capital if we are to tackle the host of challenges we face, both locally and on a global scale. Transport is the biggest generator of carbon emissions in Edinburgh and our commitment to be net zero carbon by 2030 depends on a step-change in the way we travel, a change which would also significantly impact on air quality, congestion and road safety. More than that, our approach to transport addresses poverty and the cost of travel, the barriers facing those with mobility difficulties and the economic benefits of a better-connected, liveable environment. This is a bold, forward-looking strategy, befitting of this pioneering city, which will transform our streets, neighbourhoods and connections with the rest of the world for generations to come.”

There is no doubt that the plan would cost a lot – and that currently no funding is in place – and considering how long it seems to get major transport projects off and running the timescales may be slightly ambitious but even if part of the extensions to the trams comes off there could be a very interesting decade for Edinburgh Trams!

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