CITY traders whose businesses have been badly hit by tramworks have reacted furiously after being offered a tour of the tram depot by council bosses.
Grant McKeeman, of Copymade on West Maitland Street, who estimates that the tramworks have cost him up to £2000 a week in lost trade, was left aghast after receiving an email offering him a chance to “experience a short journey on a tram” and a tour of the Gogar depot and control room.
The invitation asks interested traders to clarify which one of two weekly sessions they would like to attend either Tuesday from 2-4pm or Wednesday from 9.30am-11.30am. Also included is a map informing them how best to get to the site beside the Gogarburn Roundabout.
He said: “I really can’t believe it to be honest. I find it hugely insulting and have phoned them to express my disgust.
“Footfall in the West End has been reduced to zero and businesses have been decimated but somehow the council thinks that a trip around the depot is something traders would be interested in.”
“All I’m interested in is putting this whole mess behind me. I’ve been in business for over 20 years but if the tramworks had happened say ten or 15 years ago I would not have survived.”
This view ws echoed by fellow West End trader Brian Roberts, of Shandwick Place hairdressers Headline.
He said: “I’d love to go on a jolly and tour the tram depot – but business is so bad I cannot afford to take an afternoon off.
“Footfall is non-existent and I estimate we’re down around £1000 a week in takings since the whole thing began.
“I’m on the phone to the council on a weekly basis about the tram works so I don’t know why they’d expect me to want to visit the depot.”
City centre councillor Joanna Mowat admitted that while the invitation might have been “well intentioned” she can understand why the offer has not been “warmly received”.
She said: “I know how upset and angry city centre traders are in regards to trams. They have had to trade in difficult economic times with the added burden of the tramworks, it has been an incredibly difficult time for them.
“Anything short of trams running down the street and the area being returned to normal will not be well received. The feeling on the street is one of ‘just give us our city back’.”
Traders, transport enthusiasts and community groups have been given preference to be among the first passengers on a 2.8km section of the £776 million line between Gogar and Edinburgh Airport.
Scout groups, local “stakeholders” and businesses are alsounderstood to have been placed on a list of would-be tram testers.
Transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said giving the wider public the same opportunity would also be considered and that she is “striving” to ensure the full eight-mile route to York Place was opened ahead of the summer 2014 timetable. She said: “We’ve had many requests from interested groups who want to visit the tram depot.”
BUSINESSES CAME OFF THE RAILS
Shandwick Place was first closed for trams works in 2008, and just a month later two local businesses – Cockburns Deli and the Phone-In telecoms store – put their leases up for sale, blaming plummeting trade as a result of the closure.
In February 2010, when it was announced the area would be closed again to finish uncompleted work, traders were furious, and the area was later branded “a disaster” by developer Frank Montgomery, who was hoping to attract a
major supermarket to the area.
Last year saw the closure of sweet shop Sugacane, while earlier this year Au Bar on Shandwick Place closed, citing tram works.