Edinburgh trams ‘put cobbler out of business’

Jim Fairgrieve is being forced out of business after 40 years due to the tram works. 'Picture: Neil Hanna

Jim Fairgrieve is being forced out of business after 40 years due to the tram works. 'Picture: Neil Hanna

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ONE of Edinburgh’s longest-serving cobblers has been brought to heel by tram works and will close at the end of the month.

Described as a New Town institution, Robbie’s Services was once a thriving father and son ­business, and a mainstay of York Place for more than 40 years.

But, like many other ­businesses that have seen trade tumble, it too has now ­succumbed.

Jim Fairgrieve, 49, believes they will become the final ­victims of the disruptive works, which have forced countless businesses to the wall.

He said: “I’m losing my job through no fault of my own,” he said. “It’s not just a job, it’s my livelihood. If it was not for the trams I would have ­survived, that’s the impact they have had on me.”

The works have blighted York Place since 2008 but 
takings nose-dived by a half when the busy intersection closed completely last July.

Mr Fairgrieve said he could now barely claim a wage and will cut his losses and sell up.

Mr Fairgrieve, who lives in Tranent, said his 75-year-old father, who founded the firm, was “absolutely devastated” and believes that despite the economic downturn and decline of the cobbling industry the shop would have survived but for the tram works.

He said: “When they first started work at York Place cages were put up and I noticed trade went down a ­little bit.

“But later I noticed a big dip because people weren’t able to get here. About a year later buses weren’t passing the shop and for the last three years I think it’s been diabolical.”

Mr Fairgrieve was offered compensation from the city which he said was a “drop in the ocean” compared with his losses.

It is understood economic development officials visited the shop to offer revenue-­raising advice – but to no avail.

Councillor Joanna Mowat, a regular Robbie’s customer and city centre ward member, said the shop was an “institution”.

“I have probably had more concerned phone calls about Robbie’s Services than any other business,” she said. “The minute you closed York Place there is always going to be a problem.

“The shop is so tiny he doesn’t pay rates so we can’t get him through the rates relief service. State Aid rules that we can’t go round writing cheques for people and if you do it for one business you have to do it for the other businesses.”

Transport convener Lesley Hinds said: “It is regrettable Robbie’s Services has taken the decision to cease trading.

“I completely understand that it has been a difficult time for all businesses along the tram route against the general backdrop of a challenging economic climate and the council has been engaging with the businesses to offer as much practical help as possible.”

Disruption has taken its toll on businesses

WE have revealed how a number of established Edinburgh businesses have been derailed by the tram works.

Au Bar was forced to file a notice of insolvency in January, citing the trams as the cause of the closure. Sweet shop Sugacane also closed early last year while the Hudson Hotel was put up for sale in 2010. Agents Jones Lang LaSalle claimed the business had lost £200,000 because of the works.

One business insider said: “There has been a toll across the city. The disruption and unsightly railings have cost some people dear.”

However, with the works now nearing an end some business brains are now cashing in on the benefits the trams will bring. At least three major supermarkets are known to be opening stores on the tram route.