WHEN the tram was first mooted it was the number of homes to be built on brownfield land in Leith, Newhaven and North Edinburgh that informed the business case. That reason still holds true when you look at the pressure on Edinburgh’s green belt but there are more good reasons for extending tram.
The recent census revealed that Leith’s population has grown. Leith’s population of 56,798 is almost on a par with Dunfermline, which has 59,000 and Livingston (58,000). The fouth most densely populated part of the UK outside of London is between Leith Walk and Easter Road. An estimated 487,500 people live in Edinburgh as at June 2013. The National Records of Scotland suggest that the city should be planning for an additional 54,400 people by 2022 and an additional 136,400 by 2037. All these people will need different ways to travel round the city. Public transport – Lothian Buses and the trams together – will help with population growth.
Over half the households in Leith Walk 53.7 per cent and 47.6 per cent in Leith have no car. Bus patronage in Leith is high at 37.1 per cent, whilst 32.5 per cent in Leith Walk use the bus to travel to work. Compared to the city average of 28.6 per cent this shows that Leith and Newhaven support public transport .
Car use to work is lower here compared to the city average of 41.0 per cent, with 34.6 per cent in Leith and 25.5 per cent in Leith Walk travelling by car.
Increasing public transport use and decreasing car use is key to making our city work. In 2014 six million extra passenger journeys were taken over the previous year ,with three million by bus and three million by tram.
Changing travel to work patterns is also good for the environment. Leith now has two air quality management areas where air pollution is an issue. Travel figures show that this is a problem visited upon Leith as opposed to one created by Leith.
But the tram is good for business too. Edinburgh Park has seen increased take-up of office space and the Gyle Shopping Centre and Hermiston Gait have seen an increase in footfall as people use the tram to travel to work or in their leisure time.
This can only be good for Leith’s small businesses, restaurants and bars as well as those larger places such as Ocean Terminal or even the Kirkgate and Great Junction Street.
It is also good for tourism. With Britannia and the increased use of Newhaven Harbour as a cruise terminal visitors will find out that Leith has a lot to offer along with that cutting edge it has hosting the largest number of creative people in the city.
The folks down here get it as well. Recently the Leith Trust held the Leith Conference. One of the key asks from the conference in terms of opportunities and initiatives for Leith was getting the tram “down here”.
It would help with brownfield development as originally intended, it would help businesses, it would help tourism, it would help people move quickly about the city. The numbers stack up.
Gordon Munron is a Labour Leith ward councillor