Liz McAreavey: Integrated transport key to Edinburgh’s growth

File picture: Lesley Martin

File picture: Lesley Martin

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INTEGRATED transport is a key driver of growth, writes Liz McAreavey

Transport infrastructure in the Capital has never before been so conducive to positive economic expansion. Edinburgh Airport is seeing a higher level of passengers than ever before, contributing nearly £1bn to the Scottish economy and supporting more than 23,000 jobs.

This is all hugely encouraging but there is still a long way to go. Delivering a truly integrated transport infrastructure for Edinburgh means much more than adding stops to the tram line or putting on late trains during the Fringe. It is essential that we don’t rest on our laurels and seek ongoing enhancement of our public transport to ensure we are a truly international standard city competing with the best of them.

Lothian Buses’ investment of £18.5 million in hybrid buses and the Scottish Government’s “Green Bus Fund’”means that Edinburgh and the Lothians has the greenest bus fleet outside of London. While Edinburgh has one of the highest use of buses in the UK, the city can only achieve its environmental goals if the appeal of all modes of local transport grows. Improved integration, accessibility, convenience and affordability is key.

Significant developments to our transport system in recent years are helping to achieve this. The Borders Railway is now up and running, expanding the local economies along the route. The challenges that came with delivering the trams project are now making way for long-term, commercial benefits and indeed there is already a lot of talk about extensions. The re-development of Haymarket train station and ongoing enhancement of the rail network across the board – particularly the modernisation of the routes between Glasgow and Edinburgh – will also support long-term growth.

Integration is the key focus however, allowing improved connectivity within the city and between Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland. Manchester is a great example of how an integrated, multi-modal transport system can work. While Edinburgh, like any city, has its own specific needs, such as Edinburgh’s role as a gateway to Scotland, Manchester’s success is something the Capital can aspire to.

Transport infrastructure is a key priority for event organisers and demonstrating an integrated, convenient system will help grow Edinburgh’s (and the Lothians’) attraction as a “host city”.

As Edinburgh’s City Deal and City Vision come to fruition, continued investment in transport infrastructure is a welcomed priority. In the meantime however, we must make better use of the local transport services we have to demonstrate its value, meet environmental goals and put in practice what an integrated system could deliver.

• Liz McAreavey is acting chief exec of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce