THE latest phase of the city-centre tram project, which gets under way this weekend, will create almost continuous roadworks from Haymarket to Waverley.
Tram works at Shandwick Place and Haymarket are being extended to include West Maitland Street from 5am tomorrow, with a fresh set of traffic diversions. Most of Princes Street is already closed.
And today businesses in the West End said they were “fearful, worried, dejected and despondent” at the prospect of a year of disruption and declining trade.
Michael Apter, chairman of the West End Association, said: “People’s businesses are in the balance here. There are probably four or five which have closed since the start of the year and there will be more before this work is finished.
“Economic circumstances are undoubtedly very difficult for retail at the moment, but when you add the tramworks to that, it is completely toxic for many businesses.”
Mr Apter complained that signage showing pedestrians how to get about was not adequate and claimed there was little sense of urgency about the progress of the works.
He said: “Large stretches of road are roped off without any work going on.”
And despite the council’s Open for Business scheme, which plans to invest £175,000 in boosting footfall in the West End over the coming months, Mr Apter said there was little evidence so far of anything happening to help the traders.
“There are large drums with maps on them – that’s the only visible thing I’ve seen. We are extremely grateful to customers who continue to come in and give us a fighting chance of still being here next year.”
A council spokesman said that, with large-scale projects, not every part of it would have work going on all the time. He also said there were plans to improve signage.
And he said the council had set up a West End Focus Group to consult local traders on how money could best be spent to keep people coming to the area.
The tramworks in most of Princes Street – from the West End to Waverley Bridge – are due for completion in June this year. But the Haymarket, West Maitland Street and Shandwick Place works are scheduled to last until April to June next year.
The first ten weeks of work in West Maitland Street will focus on diverting utility pipes and cables, then it will switch to preparations for laying the track.
Dave Anderson, director of city development at the city council, said: “The latest move to expand the site into West Maitland Street will give contractors access to the most flexible possible space, allowing tram work to be completed in the fastest possible time.” From tomorrow, a revised set of diversions will be put in place. Traffic flow on Torphichen Place will be reversed to go from Morrison Street to Palmerston Place. Traffic from Dalry will also be able to travel along Morrison Street, which will become two-way as far as Torpichen Place.
Tram bosses today urged motorists to allow extra time for their journeys next week as the new routes bed in.
Buses will be diverted via Rosebery, Grosvenor and Lansdowne Crescents in the north and by the West Approach Road in the south. Emergency services access will be maintained.