Most motorists will be glad to finally see the back of the tram works – but one city taxi driver has said he will be sad to see them go.
Tram works will be cleared from the streets of the Capital in less than five weeks ahead of the line opening for test runs on Princes Street in December.
The milestone will see disruption associated with the project cleared from the streets for the first time in six years.
But Central Taxis boss Tony Kenmuir said some of the diversions put in place – which angered many drivers, businesses and residents – worked well and kept traffic flowing more freely.
Aware many will think him mad for saying he’s going to miss the tram works, he said: “We are all going to have to rethink our routes.
“A lot of the diversions have actually been very positive ones like being able to get from Charlotte Square, round by Ryan’s Bar and into Queensferry Street and back.
“Now we will be reverting to the way it was and we won’t be able to do that anymore.
“Probably not all taxi drivers will think the same way, but I found the diversions worked pretty well and traffic kept flowing not too badly.
“The worst phase was when Leith Walk was closed, that was hellish and a disaster which turned out to be for nothing, but around the West End it kept going pretty well.”
All streets of the Capital are set to be free of tram works by October 19.
The first passenger services are set to go live in May, but it is thought the start date could be improved significantly, barring setbacks with testing and remaining track works.
Haymarket, Shandwick Place and West Maitland Street are among the final stretches of the road network to open to traffic after several contractor blunders saw hundreds of metres of concrete ripped up and relaid along the key stretch.
Mr Kenmuir, whose firm is behind a 445-strong fleet, said he hoped the lifting of the restrictions would pave the way for improvements to the city’s beleaguered roads.
He said: “Like a great many people, I’m hoping that once the traffic gets the chance to normalise that they will start a programme of repairing the damage of some of the roads, particularly around Charlotte Square, because over the last few years some of these roads have taken a pummelling from the double-decker traffic.
“Hopefully there will be a programme of investment in putting the roads back to rights so I would imagine that would lead to some diversions again, but that would be a very positive thing because I’m hoping it will save me a bit on my suspension bill.”
Raymond Davidson, secretary of the Edinburgh Taxi Association, agreed that some of the changes had been beneficial to the trade.
He said: “There have been two or three changes that have been positive, even though the council has not intended them to be, most of them in the West End. On the one hand, it will be a relief when the roadworks are gone but it will take a bit of getting used to when it goes back to the way it was because it’s been like that for so long. It will be interesting to see if the council will make any more changes once all these barriers are lifted. Anything that keeps the traffic flowing is a good thing.”
Once operational, around eight trams an hour will run through Edinburgh’s streets at peak time, with fares pegged at £1.50 for a single journey – the same as the city’s buses.
A total of 52 ticket inspectors, known as “revenue protection officers”, will be employed to snare fare dodgers and police the 17 trams running at any one time.
Special timetables for events such as Six Nations rugby matches have not yet been finalised. Up to 180 “ghost trams” – vehicles empty of passengers which will run mainly at night – a week will start running along the full eight-mile route from the airport to York Place from December 9 as part of testing.
Green Transport spokesman Councilllor Nigel Bagshaw said: “It’s certainly a novelty to hear a taxi driver making positive comments about the tram. Maybe we should get that put on a plaque in St Andrew Square. In all seriousness though, in the chaos of tram works the last three or four years, the city must have learned new things about the way the city centre works and I hope we apply those lessons, shifting the balance towards the needs of pedestrians and cyclists in a way that benefits local traders, disabled people and, yes, even the taxi trade.”
Rugby fans eye early completion date
CITY leaders are being urged to get the Capital’s trams up and running in time for next year’s Six Nations tournament.
The rugby tournament starts in February, and while the council have said the trams would be running by May 2014 at the latest, they are hoping to bring that date forward.
That has raised the prospect of thousands of rugby fans being able to use the trams to attend the Six Nations game against France at Murrayfield on March 8/9 or even the Calcutta Cup clash with England on February 8.
Rugby fans believe the showcase event would be the perfect time to go live and are urging contractors to ruck and maul their way to an early project completion.
Neil Hunter of the Forum of Scottish Rugby Supporters said: “It’s great news that the trams are finally going to be here – and anything that helps people get to and from the games will be incredibly welcomed by fans, bearing in mind Edinburgh is a home city and you’ve got 67,000 supporters going back and forth.”
Murrayfield councillor Jeremy Balfour said contractors needed to try their best. He said: “Clearly if the trams could be up and running before the Six Nations starts it will make a huge difference for supporters and also people who live and work in Murrayfield.”