TRAM barriers will be temporarily lifted tomorrow to make way for 40,000 fans heading through the West End ahead of the near sell-out rugby match between Scotland and New Zealand.
Struggling traders are expected to benefit from a rare boost when the district is partly opened up for the eagerly anticipated international.
Temporary crossing points will be installed at Canning Street and Stafford Street and there will be stewards to manage the flow of fans at Shandwick Place.
Russell Road – which runs north to south between Gorgie to Murrayfield – is also now fully open and signs will also be erected on the route directing fans towards the bars restaurants and shops, which are now expected to be packed.
Scotland will take on current world champions the All Blacks – the only team they have never defeated.
Among those hoping to benefit from the influx is Graham Blaikie, who runs the Mercat Bar on West Maitland Street.
He has been granted a licence to sell alcohol from 11am, instead of 12.30pm, which he said would improve takings – and allow fans to build up a carnival atmosphere before the big game.
He said: “During the Rugby World Cup the licensing board gave me a licence to open at 7am to catch the early games. We’re not the kind of bar where people drink early but it was real boost to trade and we’re really pleased to have been allowed to open early.
“Our business has lost £125,000 in the past five months due to being cut off by the tram works. It also hasn’t helped that before previous games the police have diverted people away from the West End, so we’re pleased about the access.
“We hope to get an early licence for other events and benefit from the fans who will be passing us on the way to Murrayfield.”
Movement of the barriers comes after business owners voiced fears they could lose out completely if fans making their way to the stadium were directed away from the Shandwick Place area. Measures will also be in place next Saturday, when Scotland go up against South Africa.
Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport leader, said the fixture was a huge opportunity to help traders in the area.
She said: “We know how important rugby internationals are for businesses so we want supporters to know that the West End, and the whole city, is open for business.
“Whilst the primary aim of the police is to ensure safety, we’ve made them aware that access to the area will be improved. By working together we hope that rugby fans will take advantage of what’s on offer.”