Edinburgh north-south tramline: Both Roseburn and Orchard Brae options will go for consultation

Councillors inundated with emails from people 'horrified' at potential loss of much-loved nature corridor
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Two options for the route of Edinburgh's next tram line will go out to public consultation after a backlash against the proposal to take over a popular cycle path.

Council officials recommended the Roseburn cycle path as the "preferred route" for the planned north-south tram line from Granton, through the city centre and out to the Royal Infirmary and BioQuarter. The alternative, going via Crewe Road South and up Orchard Brae to Queensferry Road, would involve the trams going over the Dean Bridge, which officials described as a "significant constraint".

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But now both options, with their pros and cons, will be set out when the 12-week public consultation on the new tram line is launched in the spring. At a meeting of the transport and environment committee, councillors told how they had been inundated with emails from people "horrified" at the potential loss of a much-loved nature corridor.

Lib Dem councillor Sanne Dijkstra-Downie said the path, a former railway line, was "an amazing example of rewilded industrial space" and "a lifeline for city kids".

If the Roseburn route is chosen, there would be a footpath alongside the tram track, while segregated cycling would be provided on Queensferry Road and Orchard Brae. But Daisy Narayanan, the council's head of mobility, said the plan was not to ban cyclists from the path alongside the tramline, but it would not be the same experience as the "beautiful, calm place" which the Roseburn Path currently was.  

The Roseburn route was the one approved in Edinburgh's original tram plans 20 years ago, but the proposal now includes a slight diversion along Telford Road to serve the Western General Hospital.

The plan to route the trams along the popular Roseburn cycle path saw councillors inundated with protests.The plan to route the trams along the popular Roseburn cycle path saw councillors inundated with protests.
The plan to route the trams along the popular Roseburn cycle path saw councillors inundated with protests.

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Alex Robb from cycling campaign group Spokes said they would be happy with an on-road tram route, which would be "much preferable for wildlife and nature", but did oppose the option of trams on the Roseburn path if that was shown to be the best public transport route.  And he argued cycling too could be accommodated along with the trams on the Roseburn Path. 

He told the committee: "A lot of people are very passionate about the Roseburn Path, it's a great asset for the city. Provision of additional tram is also very important for Edinburgh.  The report mentions that a 3-metre wide path can still be provided alongside the tram route on Roseburn Path so hopefully both tram and cycling can be provided in the same corridor."

He said if path widths were maximised, leisure cycling, particularly by families, could be retained on the Roseburn Path, while faster commuter cyclists would use the alternative provision on main roads. 

Jakob Assarsson, from Friends of Dalry cemetery, said his group had been excited that the £12.5m Union Canal to Roseburn project might bring more foxes, rabbits, and even badgers or hedgehogs to the cemetery. "But now we learn that we’ll be linking to nothing but more paving, and concrete. That is exactly what will happen to the Roseburn Path. Not a single plant or animal will be left alive when the works proceed.

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"Trams should not come at the expense of an existing world-class nature corridor - with bats, hedgehogs, owls, and badgers, all protected species, throughout - and an extremely popular active travel route. If we must have more trams, let them take space from cars."

But Nigel Bagshaw, a former Green councillor who appeared at the committee on behalf of transport campaign group Transform, dismissed the Orchard Brae route. He said: "The alternative tram route is not an alternative at all. If trams are going to go anywhere, they have to go on the recommended route, possibly without a diversion to the hospital.  We are going to have huge time delays if we don't use what we've already got permission to do it's going to set back the project quite a few years potentially."

Transport convener Scott Arthur said the new north-south tram route, projected to open by 2035, would be transformative. He said: "It's going to take 11 years to deliver this. This is a real economic enabler, which is going to rive development, drive housebuilding, drive investment in the city. It's going to be carrying people from houses that have not been built yet and kids that haven't been born yet to workplaces and schools that haven;t been built yet."

But in a change to the original proposal, which would have named Roseburn as the prefered route, he said the consultation would include both options. "The consultation will set out the pros and cons of both routes in a clear, objective and fair way and it will look again at whether high quality waking and cycling can be provided along a tramline on the Roseburn Path."

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