Major city centre tram works come to an end

The final phase of major tram construction works in Edinburgh city centre is due to come to a close this weekend with the re-opening of Shandwick Place on Saturday 19th October. This will be the first time for six years that the city centre has been free of any major tram construction works and is likely to be met with a sigh of relief by the many businesses in the area who had claimed they were adversely affected by the works.

A range of changes to traffic arrangements in the West End will now come into force with changes to public transport and vehicle access. These will include a return to two-way vehicle traffic at Manor Place and bus, taxi and cycle access to Shandwick Place, with general vehicles allowed access between 0800 and 1900.

Although this is the end of the major works in the city centre it doesn’t mean that it is completely the end of any works. Further work will be necessary to reinstate the road network back to the pre-tram arrangements and preparations will also need to be made for live tram operations. These works will mainly be localised but some traffic flows may temporarily be affected up until the end of the testing and commissioning phase of the tramway in the lead up to opening in May 2014.

Cllr Lesley Hinds, Transport Convener on the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “With the tram project now nearing completion, the city centre is beginning to take shape and we can look forward to next year when passenger services will begin. We know it’s been very difficult for people living and working in areas affected by the tram works and it will be a big relief that the majority of disruptive works in the city centre are now over.  Now is the time to look forward to the opportunities ahead and to embrace the benefits that a modern, integrated transport system, incorporating all transport options, can bring to our city. Our target for service launch is now May 2014 but, of course, we’ll bring this forward if we can. However, it’s important to remember that a thorough testing, commissioning and driver training programme is absolutely essential. There is much work still to be done and it’s vital that all the appropriate tests and checks are made before we go into service.”

Testing commenced to Edinburgh Park last week and is due to be extended to the whole system from December. Reports this week have suggested that cracks have appeared in some of the structures of the line to Edinburgh Park following the first tests with Professor Lewis Lesley – the brains behind the Trampower project and who also wanted to introduced trams to Edinburgh but his plans were ignored by the Council and they went with their own ideas – suggesting it is a concern. The Council responded saying they were in discussions with the contractors about these cracks but that it is not unusual for new structures to have issues such as this. The only surprise about this story was that John Carson didn’t seem to have an opinion on how bad the trams are!

* Another story reported in the Edinburgh press this week should basically read “Man falls off bike just as cycling organisation are filming”! Yes whilst a member of the CityCyclingEdinburgh.info was filming a cyclist managed to get his bike wheel stuck on the tram tracks and fell off his bike leading to cycling organisations – including Spokes – telling everyone how dangerous the trams will be for all those law abiding cyclists. Funny how cyclists across the world seem to manage to ride about without getting their wheels stick isn’t it?

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2 Responses to Major city centre tram works come to an end

  1. John Stewart says:

    Too true about the cyclists. Now in my 52nd season of racing, a club chairman and holder of various posts in cycle sport, I absolutely despair at the whingeing attitude of some of my fellow cyclists. Those in Edinburgh seem not to have noticed that people in Blackpool, Sheffield, Nottingham, Wolverhampton, Manchester and Croydon live happily with trams. I recall that the natives at Porthmadog were forecasting cycling disaster at the prospect of about 100m of 600mm gauge track across Britannia Bridge but all works happily. As a sportsman I have learned never to trust a politically motivated cyclist.

  2. Bob Hall says:

    John Stewart is not entirely correct in saying that cyclists in other British tramway locations have no difficulty in negotiating tram tracks. Local newspapers frequently take their side when highlighting similar accidents and blame the trams for a potential for far greater calamities. Nonetheless, I congratulate him for his no-nonsense response, which deserves greater publicity than it is likely to attract. Edinburgh has a population bordering 500,000, served by about 700 double-deck buses and a short length of uncomplicated tram track. Amsterdam has a population of over 750,000 and a public transport system comprising principally a tramway capable of accommodating a similar number of passengers as Edinburgh. That involves interconnected routes with countless complex interchanges (the design and installation of which I suspect British tramway engineers would reject as impractical to achieve). Cycling is a principal travel mode, the local authority estimating that the number of bicycles exceeds the population because: -
    1 – Many residents have more than one and leave others chained at a tram stop near to a place of work or other frequented venue.
    2 – Commuters arriving at urban railway stations have a secured bicycle for journeying onwards.
    Central Station, the (somewhat off centre) hub of its tramway network, has little provision for car parking but has a five story cycle park for about 7000 cycles. That does not prevent every suitable fixed object from being host to as many bicycles as can be attached. Strangely, dead and dying cyclists do not congest Amsterdam’s morgues and hospital causality departments. The current revamp of St. Peters Station in Gent will include an underground four-track tram station and secure parking for 4000 cycles. Most cyclists will tell you that they prefer trams to buses because they will not suddenly be squeezed when the latter unexpectedly turns right (left in the UK) at street corners. Together with HGVs, that is a far greater problem for incautious cyclists than quickly developing an instinctive avoidance of rail grove.