Election: What parties say about extending Edinburgh’s trams

There are plans to extend the tram down Leith Walk.
There are plans to extend the tram down Leith Walk.
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PLANS to extended the tram route down Leith Walk to Newhaven are due to be considered by the new council within weeks of next Thursday’s election.

Labour says it would aim to complete the line to Newhaven and also develop a business case for the loop from Roseburn.

But the SNP manifesto is more cautious, supporting the extension in principle, but setting conditions which must be met before it goes ahead – including an assurance that the project will be properly managed, disruption will be kept to a minimum and small and independent businesses will be supported throughout the works.

The Conservatives reject the current business case for extending the tram route as too expensive, too long and too soon, pointing out Lord Hardie’s inquiry into what went wrong with the original project has yet to report.

The Greens say they would develop the business case for completing the tram network, with options to Newhaven, Granton and the south-east of the city.

The Lib Dems, who led the council for a large part of the trams project, say: “We will examine the business case for any expansion carefully, learning from past experience, before committing to new 
developments.”

The Tories promise to suspend implementation of the remaining phases of the 20mph zones and review the policy, as well as scrapping plans for Sunday parking charges.

All parties are committed to keeping Lothian Buses in public ownership and all promise to spend more on maintenance of the city’s roads and pavements.

Here’s what the parties say:

LESLEY HINDS - LABOUR

Edinburgh Labour is committed to serving the public’s needs.

When we ask residents which services are most important, we are told:

n condition of the city’s roads and pavements

n better cycling and walking infrastructure

n good, affordable, reliable public transport

Spending on transport infrastructure should benefit all users – drivers, public transport passengers, cyclists and pedestrians.

Edinburgh Labour’s commitment for a minimum of £20m per year expenditure on roads and pavements, for the next five years will address this.

This also means more funding for cycling and walking. We promise ten per cent of the annual transport budget will be spent on cycling, making Edinburgh a cycle friendly city. We set up an Active Travel Forum to make sure walking was a priority. We will create a dedicated “Budget for Walking” for pedestrian crossings, dropped kerbs and pedestrian zones.

Air quality is a concern for us all, so we want to introduce a “Low Emission Zone”.

Integrated sustainable public transport will ensure growth in our economy. Increasing cycling and walking will help make a healthier city.

Our award-winning Lothian Buses is carrying more passengers than ever, while over five million passengers used Edinburgh Trams in its second year of operation. All publicly owned!

For 30 years Edinburgh Labour has kept our bus service in public ownership. Loved by the people of Edinburgh for its good quality, accessibility, reliability and affordability, we will keep it in public ownership.

Edinburgh Labour delivered the tram project on its revised budget/timetable.

The line needs to be finished to Newhaven but a robust business case and scrutiny needs to be put in place before approval.

The reduction of road accidents is at the heart of our transport policy.

The introduction of School Streets, introducing more, and 20mph on residential, shopping areas and city centre, shows Edinburgh Labour has and will take action. But to ensure our city continues to move we have kept main arterial routes at 30/40mph.

PAM MITCHELL - SNP

The SNP will keep Lothian Buses and the tram in public hands. We recognise that our roads need to be improved and we’re committed to spend at least £100m on the biggest road investment programme the city has ever seen. Better roads are important for everyone but we’ll also invest ten per cent of our transport budget improving cycling in the city to encourage more to take up active travel.

I know from personal experience how difficult the city can be to navigate. We’re dedicated to making our city easier to navigate by tackling small but important problems like A-boards blocking pavements and carrying out a wide-ranging review of how we enforce and install drop kerbs etc to make sure Edinburgh really is accessible for everyone.

We have to accept that the tram is helping to get more people using public transport and is now carrying six million passengers a year to and from West Edinburgh.

We have set out strong conditions that must be met before we progress the tram extension, to make sure the business case is as robust as possible and disruption is kept to a minimum. To unlock the development at the waterfront and make sure those people can have a way of travelling into the city without causing significant congestion to the north and east of the city, we want to see the project go ahead, but not at any cost.

NIGEL BAGSHAW - GREEN

Edinburgh needs a transport revolution. Visitors from Denmark or Germany see a city which is 30 years behind where the best European cities are, where walking and cycling are the natural choice, delivering high quality public transport and tackling the twin headaches of congestion and air pollution.

Green transport plans target a significant increase in the 58 per cent of people who already walk, cycle or use public transport to get around. We can do this by planning new development with those travel choices in mind. Natural walking and cycling routes need joined up, so that there is an easy-to-follow network across the city. We’ll allocate at least ten per cent of the transport budget to cycling but really focus on it delivering dedicated cycle routes on the ground, a commitment which has led local campaign group Spokes to rate our Edinburgh manifesto as best of the bunch. Edinburgh as a 20mph city will also make cycling and walking safer.

The bus network is the bedrock of our public transport system and Lothian Buses will remain in public hands, and focus on expanding evening and Sunday services or areas currently poorly-served by buses.

Completion of the tram network to Newhaven and further options to the south and to Granton can help ease the strain on bus capacity but only after a rigorous assessment of the costs and work programme.

And the remaining city space? Let’s see those essential users like service vehicles and disabled people prioritised, increasingly using electric vehicles, with plentiful charging points powered by clean green energy.

HAL OSLER - LIB DEM

Liberal Democrats want to make it easier for people to get around our city, whether by walking, cycling, using public transport or their cars and that includes paying special attention to the needs of those with physical or sensory impairments.

Liberal Democrats are proud to have introduced the increasing proportion of the budget devoted to cycling when we jointly led the council on 2007-2012 and are committed to maintaining ten per cent of the transport budget for walking and cycling.

Lib Dems believe we need to focus on getting the basics right. The state of our roads and pavements is desperately poor. When Lib Dems led the council in 2007-2012 we invested in bringing the city up from second worst council in Scotland to 11th place. Under the SNP and Labour the city has fallen back again. Maintaining roads and pavements is a key priority and holding utility companies to account for the quality of their road repairs.

The 20mph policy is still being rolled out. Liberal Democrats want a full review after a year of operation, listening to people’s experiences.

Trams. Lib Dems believe the people of Leith have had all of the pain and seen none of the gain. In principle we support development of this non-polluting public transport. However we will only support a tram extension if there is a robust business case and lessons are learned about the oversight and scrutiny of the project and the quality of the contract.

NICK COOK - CONSERVATIVE

I’m often asked my number one priority for the next five years. The answer? Sorting out the appalling condition of roads and pavements.

Whether you walk, drive, cycle or use public transport, the condition of our roads and pavements should allow for a safe, pleasant journey.

Too often this isn’t case. Edinburgh Conservatives would begin to sort out this mess from day one, by improving the specification of repairs, reviewing the tendering process for works and by committing more money.

Of course, many transport issues face Edinburgh, with the council too often taking a polarising approach.

The blanket 20mph policy has proven divisive and has caused confusion. We remain concerned that the council’s lazy “one-size-fits all” approach to road safety will dilute the effectiveness of targeted areas which need 20mph.

We have led the way in calling for a comprehensive review of the scheme. In addition to more intelligent targeting, we would look at more tangible road safety measures and seek to address accident black spots.

Sunday parking charging has been equally divisive. Alongside church and business groups, we have sought to have the proposals thrown out. If in administration, Conservative councillors would scrap plans for Sunday charging. We must encourage and support city centre churches and businesses, not seek to hinder them through a cash grab on residents.

What of cycling? We need a quality cycle hire scheme. Some progress has finally been made. But any old scheme will not do. We need to deliver a quality scheme which rivals the gold standard available in London. In addition, we need more, better quality, better connected cycle paths which are segregated where possible.