Lawyers say trams open council up to injury claims

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LEGAL eagles have warned the city council that it is leaving itself open to a slew of injury claims as a result of “lethal” tram tracks at Haymarket.

Since the junction’s reopening in October last year, numerous cyclists have been toppled crossing the tracks outside the railway station, with many falls being captured on video.

The new layout at Haymarket has resulted in numerous falls by cyclists. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The new layout at Haymarket has resulted in numerous falls by cyclists. Picture: Ian Rutherford

At one stage, at least one biker a day was being sent flying over the handlebars as their wheels became lodged in the tracks.

The daily list of casualties has somewhat eased in recent weeks after word spread about the black spot.

However, lawyer Jayne Crawford, of Thompsons Solicitors, believes the fact the problem still remains leaves the council open to negligence claims.

She said: “The city council has a legal obligation to ensure the safety of individuals using the roads they control. They are aware these tram lines are unsafe given the number of similar accidents involving cyclists.

“Their failure to take steps to address the problem could result in them being considered negligent. This may leave the council open to compensation claims for injuries and 
damages.”

City transport convener Lesley Hinds said that the safety of cyclists “is of the utmost importance” and pointed to changes already made at the junction, such as increased signage and the removal of a taxi rank, as examples of efforts to “significantly improve” the situation.

She said: “Amongst the changes have been the introduction of additional road markings and signage to direct cycles into a dedicated cycle lane in front of the station on the westbound approach from Morrison Street, and new road markings leading cycles to cross the tram tracks at a safer crossing angle.

“The relocation of the taxi rank has been carried out to assist cyclists by tackling the problem of over-ranking taxis pushing cyclists closer to tram tracks.”

Last week, the News revealed city cycling charity Spokes had become so concerned about the junction that it drew up an ambitious scheme which helps bikers avoid black spots.

Its proposal involves creating a two-way cycle lane on the opposite side of the road, avoiding Haymarket Yards, flagged up as posing a danger once trams become more frequent in May.

The plan also does away with a “dodgy” eastbound right turn across the tram tracks on to Torphichen Street.

Spokes’ vision would fit with the council’s own stated intention of creating an east-west family cycle lane running through the city from Roseburn to Leith.

It is understood that city planners are currently “considering the proposal”.

Tram chiefs are also investigating concerns over the amount of time city centre traffic is being stalled at red lights to allow carriages to pass.

Tom Loughray, 78, from Muirhouse, was left waiting more than half an hour for his number 37 bus to turn from North Bridge on to Princes Street on Monday.

It is understood traffic became backed up behind red lights as the tram made its way from St Andrew Square.

He said: “There was a number of us at the stop and you could see the bus coming along the Bridges but all the lights on Princes Street were red for several minutes.

“None of us could twig what was going on until the tram came around the corner from St Andrew Square, but the lights then stayed red until the tram was well past The Mound.”

Tram bosses have urged residents and motorists to be patient as daytime testing continues in the city centre.

A council spokeswoman said: “There is ongoing tram testing looking at various factors like sequencing and timing, so that any issues are picked up and resolved ahead of the official launch.”