Councillors in Aberdeen are discussing the possibility of returning trams to the city and are calling on Scottish government support to conduct a feasibility study to see whether it would be worth their while progressing the plans. The proposed plan would see lines running between Dyce and Aberdeen International Airport and from the harbour to Cove via Torry. Council chiefs believe the line would be needed as more than 30,000 homes are being planned for the city over the next ten to 15 years.
The plans are due to be discussed at a Council meeting on 31st October when aspects of the Strategic Infrastructure Plan (SIP), of which the tram is just one part, will be looked at. The Labour led Council are keen to progress with the plans but the main opposition on the Council, in the form of the SNP, have described the idea as “pie in the sky”.
A council report says: “As we look around the world, and Europe in particular, we see more and more cities of Aberdeen’s size developing rapid transport systems or light transport systems, which connect communities to major strategic sites, including universities, business parks, harbours, airports, stations and city centres. We will start to investigate new ways to maximise connectivity between new developments arising from the new local development plan, including continuing discussions with Nestrans and Transport Scotland about planning and funding.”
Speaking in The Scotsman about the proposals opposition SNP councillor Callum McCaig commented: “This is an absolute non starter and I am astounded that any Aberdeen city
councillor should be suggesting we should by operating trams in Aberdeen. It’s a totally pie in the sky idea. I think you would need to have been living in a cave for the past 10 years to think that trams are something we should be pushing ahead with – before the Edinburgh trams have even got up and running. On paper, trams may seem to be a good idea. But in practice Edinburgh, I think, has proved there are major hurdles to be overcome before you can even think about such a scheme. There needs to be a long process in Scotland, looking at what went wrong with Edinburgh, before anyone considers going ahead with another scheme. We saw the costs in Edinburgh rising astronomically and the route shortening dramatically and that is not something Aberdeen City Council should be wanting to inflict upon its council tax payers.”
But Cllr Willie Young, Labour’s finance convener on the Council, was adamant a feasibility study was needed: “The first thing I want to assure people is that there won’t be trams going down Union Street and Holburn street. That is not what we’re thinking about. But what we are thinking about is how we link the rail station at Dyce to the airport. One of the things that is ridiculous about Aberdeen is that the airport entrance and the rail station are on the wrong side of Dyce to each other. And we also need to see how we can link the huge developments at the harbour to Torry and Cove on that side of the city. All we are asking is for the Scottish Government to join with us in a feasibility study to see if we can deliver on some of these proposals. If we had done this 40 years ago we wouldn’t have the problems we have got now with our infrastructure. Why can other European cities have trams and Aberdeen can’t? If the study concludes it’s not feasible then we won’t do it. But if it’s feasible let’s get on and do it. If it’s pie in the sky or a waste of money then we are going to know once we have the results of the feasibility study. But it’s something new and innovative which could make a tremendous difference to Aberdeen in easing congestion on these key routes.”
Whether the Scottish government will be willing to support the feasibility study remains to be seen as the Scottish National Party led administration have shown themselves to be anti-tram following the problems experienced in Edinburgh and it may be a case of once bitten twice shy.