I’m delighted the council has now formally agreed the SNP-Labour coalition’s programme for administration for the next five years. The city now has ambitious plans to work towards Edinburgh’s future and deal with our challenges.
One key element of the plans is the desire to improve public transport. Many parts of Edinburgh are still not adequately served by buses and we’ll keep working with Lothian Buses and other companies to improve access to rural west Edinburgh and across all of our communities.
Completing the tramline to Newhaven is another important element of how to make sure our transport system can cope with the increase in population we’re going to see in the coming years. Next week a special meeting of the city’s transport committee will consider the business case for tram extension and I’m glad to say that all 19 SNP councillors took the time to go through the business in detail. This is in sharp contrast to the Tories, whose principal spokesperson (John McLellan) wrote an entire article in the Evening News outlining the Tory position on trams but hadn’t even been bothered to read the business case in advance of his unsubstantiated scaremongering.
The economic case for the tram is solid, with brownfield sites now being snapped up along the existing tram route delivering thousands of new homes and hundreds of affordable homes. With large sites still undeveloped along the proposed extended route in Leith, we’ll see a similar catalyst for the right kind of development. The transport case is equally convincing, with trams able to quickly move people around the city. A fact worth remembering is one tram can carry the same number of people as five single decker buses and more than three double deckers (although anyone taking the tram on a rugby match day knows you can squeeze even more than that in).
Despite our support in principle for an expanded tram we’re taking this decision seriously. We know the last thing this city needs is another poorly run infrastructure project. SNP councillors are throwing literally hundreds of questions at officials to make sure the business case we vote on is as robust as possible before we proceed.
With the disruption from a tram extension, our challenge is to ensure that during construction support for businesses remains steadfast and that the rest of our public transport system continues to operate. Post-construction, we need to ensure Lothian Buses, which carries a hundred million passengers a year, is still able to provide the same fantastic service we’ve all come to rely on.
As well as taking the decision facing the transport committee as seriously as we can, we’ve also made this a phased decision, which means even if we support tram extension next month we won’t go ahead with any final decision until October 2018. We take the responsibility we have to run this city very seriously and we are proceeding with a great deal of care.
The question for political parties opposing this move is – what’s your solution? Our city is a success story around the world. Our economy and population are growing as more businesses move to the Capital and more people move here to share in our future success. Just a few months ago we were ranked the second best city on the planet in terms of quality of life by Deutsche Bank. Our programme for the Capital will work to protect what’s amazing about Edinburgh. Only by investing in public transport and active travel can we secure the future Edinburgh all of us deserve.
Adam McVey is leader of Edinburgh City Council