Edinburgh residents up in arms as tram extension leaves Roseburn Path future up in the air

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A section of the Roseburn Path could be taken away as part of tram extension plans.

Edinburgh residents are in a battle with councillors set to make a big decision on the future of one of the city's most beloved active travel routes.

The Roseburn/Telford Path has long provided a refuge from the hustle and bustle for cyclists, walkers and runners - but a section of it could make way for a new tram line connecting Granton with the city centre and Royal Infirmary. City council officers are recommending a route for the extension which would see a walkway retained along the former railway line but cyclists forced to go elsewhere.

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An alternative route via Crewe Road South and Orchard Brae has been all but dismissed due to road congestion and cost concerns. Early plans for the city's tram system saw the Roseburn Path earmarked for the route but it has taken two decades for concrete proposals to take shape.

The Roseburn cycle path is set to disappear to make way for the latest tram extension (Picture: Greg Macvean)The Roseburn cycle path is set to disappear to make way for the latest tram extension (Picture: Greg Macvean)
The Roseburn cycle path is set to disappear to make way for the latest tram extension (Picture: Greg Macvean) | Greg Macvean

City councillors will vote tomorrow on whether to kickstart a 12-week consultation on the new route during the spring. The Liberal Democrats are set to vote against it and have racked up more than 1,000 signatures from locals backing their position in an online petition.

Meanwhile an campaign group set up on Facebook to save the path has nearly 1,000 members days after it was launched. Craig Stewart, a mechanic at The Bike Station, said the path would be a great loss to the city's cycling scene.

He told the Evening News: "If you are to stand at any point on the Roseburn Path at nearly any time of day, you will see a continuous stream of cyclists using this path. Around rush hour, the number only increases, and you get a real image of how many people actually rely on this path.

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"Without it, all of these cyclists will be displaced onto the surrounding roads, which are often much more intimidating and tricky to navigate. It provides a real safe space for a lot of cyclists, away from the fast moving sprawl of big metal death boxes, and allows cyclists to be happy, pedestrians to be content, and cars to have to contend with less bikes for the road.

"As someone who uses the path regularly, it's incredibly convenient, acting as a highway between the centre of the city and routes to Granton, Leith and South Queensferry and the bridges."

A 37-year-old keen runner, who works in the city centre and lives on the north side of town, added: "It is actually an incredible space, one that I use myself with my family that allows you to get away from the urban environment. That's massively important for mental health as well as active travel.

"I think the second point is that it's also incredibly important for wildlife and natural trees and plants. Edinburgh should be defending and expanding its green spaces, not taking them away.

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"Even if you're an Edinburgh resident who doesn't use the path, I think you should be thinking about what your local path is or what your local green space or park is that could be threatened next. This is a fight for the whole city."

Craig said removing an important green travel corridor railed against the local authority's net-zero commitments, continuing: "Granted, the aim is to get people out of cars and onto trams, but with such a strong active travel initiative within the government, it feels as if they are taking a step in the wrong direction with this decision.

"As a charity which is funded by the Scottish government, it is clear to us that the incentive is to get people out of cars and to consider more active forms of travel."

The other resident concurred, saying: "I think if you look at Edinburgh's active travel hierarchy, it doesn't sit well with that and if you look at Edinburgh's commitment to net zero, it doesn't sit well with that either", he added.

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Cyclist Yoav Tzabar, convinced that a new tram line is not worth losing the path, said: "What I would like to ask the council is why they think a tram line along the Roseburn Path is such a good idea apart from already being a track and (that) building the line there won’t upset car drivers. My thoughts are that a Roseburn Path tramline doesn’t really go anywhere useful.

"After Granton, it doesn’t go past the Western General. Although there is a marked path off the main path to it, you have to cross Telford Road and even then it’s quite a way to the hospital entrance.

"Okay, it does go past Craigleith Shopping Centre but after that it either runs in a cutting or above street level. Not very practical for serving the localities.

"Remember, the line wasn’t built for the locals but to serve Granton Harbour. A tram line should go along the road, say Crewe Road down to Queensferry Road for example to meet up with the existing tram line."

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Last week, Lib Dem group leader Kevin Lang laid out his party's position on the Roseburn option. He said: "Liberal Democrat councillors are open to extending the tram and recognise the benefits this could bring, particularly to north Edinburgh. However, this cannot be at any cost.

"The Telford/Roseburn path is a well-used and much-loved green corridor running through the west of Edinburgh.  It would be a travesty for such a major active travel route and important part of our natural environment to be lost for the tram extension. After all, council officers’ own assessments show other feasible options exist.

"There is clearly a long way to go before final decisions are taken. However, we will oppose any attempt to turn over the Telford / Roseburn path for the tram extension. We should be protecting our green spaces, not removing them."

The council's transport convener Scott Arthur defended putting the plans on the table. He replied: "I use it myself, but it's not a path I would go along at night time.

"As a city I think we have to aspire to 24/7 cycle paths. The stronger argument against the Roseburn Path is the potential loss of environmental benefits, but that's being studied."

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