Trams set to ‘greatly improve’ Princes St

Edinburgh's million tram system is set to open in May next year. Picture: Julie Bull

Edinburgh's million tram system is set to open in May next year. Picture: Julie Bull

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TRAMS will enormously improve the ambience of Princes Street and provide the perfect foreground for famous views of the Castle and Royal Mile, according to one of the world’s top civil engineers.

Geoff French, the new president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, which represents 82,000 members worldwide, said the controversial £776 million project would have a “very positive impact” on the Capital,

He said: “The tram is a step change in public transport in Edinburgh so I’m very much looking forward to visiting it.

“I’d have thought of all the Scottish cities, Edinburgh is the one best suited to the implementation of the tram and I think once completed it will have a very positive impact on the city.”

His comments, during a four-day tour of some of Scotland’s flagship infrastructure projects, come just days after the News revealed how the trams had been credited with fuelling £100m of property deals in Princes Street in the last 14 months.

Mr French said: “There’s something about just freeing up Princes Street from having quite so many buses running along it. It would add enormously to the ambience of the area and will help set off the Castle and the top end of the Royal Mile that you can see from Princes Street. I just think it will strengthen that whole entrance to the city centre.”

He said that because trams carry large numbers of passengers – each Edinburgh tram will carry more than 300 passengers – they have to be built along strong corridors of movement with high volumes of traffic. “Edinburgh has this with the route into the city along Murrayfield Road, which is the kind of high capacity corridor that would support the tram.”

Former SNP MSP Professor Christopher Harvie described the Haymarket-St Andrew Square section of the route as “potentially the most glamorous stretch of European public transport”.

And today Gordon Henderson, of the Federation of Small Businesses, backed Mr French’s comments. He said: “The trams will enhance Princes Street. At the moment, it’s just solid with buses. I challenge anyone to get a photograph of the Castle without a bus in it. Having a tram in the foreground is probably better than a double-decker bus.”

Tram testing along the entire route from the airport to York Place is due to begin on December 9 with more than 150 dummy runs taking place each day.

Cut council chief executive Sue Bruce welcomed Mr French’s endorsement. He has 40 years’ experience as a consulting engineer on major transport infrastructure projects around the world, including the public inquiry into Heathrow Terminal 5 and major transport studies for governments including Saudi Arabia, Iraq and South Africa.

He is also visiting the Forth Replacement Crossing, Glasgow’s Hydro and a number of Commonwealth Games venues.