Edinburgh's new north-south tram route set to take over popular Roseburn cycle path

Plan sparks opposition over loss of green active travel corridor
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A popular walking and cycle path is set to disappear to make way for Edinburgh's next tram extension.

Officials are recommending the new north-south tram line from Granton to the Royal Infirmary, the BioQuarter and beyond should run along the former railway which is now the Roseburn cycle path. A walkway would be preserved alongside the tramline, but cyclists would have to take a different route.

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An alternative tram route going via Crewe Road South and Orchard Brae was considered, but officials say it would face a major constraint because of having to cross the Dean Bridge on its way to link up with the existing tramline along Princes Street. And they say congestion would affect journey times.

The Roseburn path was the route originally intended when the line was first planned about 20 years ago as part of the city's main tram project. But since then the cycle path has become well established as a green active travel corridor and the Crewe Road South / Orchard Brae route was floated as a way of serving the Western General Hospital and allowing the Roseburn cycle path to survive.

The Roseburn cycle path is the council's preferred route for the new north-south tramline.  Picture: Greg Macvean.The Roseburn cycle path is the council's preferred route for the new north-south tramline.  Picture: Greg Macvean.
The Roseburn cycle path is the council's preferred route for the new north-south tramline. Picture: Greg Macvean.

However, officials have now gone back to the Roseburn option, with a slight diversion along Groathill Road and Telford Road to take it past the Western General. A report to the council's transport and environment committee says the Roseburn route will also allow trams to turn right at Haymarket, allowing a direct service from Granton to the airport.

The committee will be asked on Thursday to approve plans for a 12-week consultation in the spring on the proposed tramline. The report says the preferred route for the new line is the Roseburn path, then, from the city centre along the Bridges corridor to the Southside and onwards to the BioQuarter via Cameron Toll. For the longer term, there are potential options to extend the line further to Sheriffhall, Shawfair, Queen Margaret University and Newcraighall. Transport convener Scott Arthur said the new line would connect Granton, Edinburgh College, Edinburgh University, Cameron Toll shopping centre, the Royal Infirmary and the BioQuarter, linking the "massive development opportunities" in Granton and south-east Edinburgh. He said: "Personally, I think this is maybe the line we should have done first. Connecting these massive destinations and development areas is where we should have gone first."

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Lib Dem group leader Kevin Lang spoke out against the Roseburn option and said his party would not vote for the new tramline if that was to be the route.

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."

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Cllr Arthur acknowledged the path was well-used. "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."

The council hopes the new line will be funded by Scottish Government. Cllr Arthur said: "They have already identified this as a piece of national iinfrastructure".

The expansion of the network will mean the tram fleet has to be enlarged - and the new trams could run on batteries to reduce the need for overhead lines, especially going through the city's historic Old Town.

The council's current projection suggests the new line could be up and running by 2035, though the Roseburn section could be ready by 2031.

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