Comment: The failure to future-proof was an error
IT is always easy to be wise with hindsight, but there is no way to avoid the fact that failing to “future-proof” Leith Walk against further potential tram works was a serious error.
Even in the darkest days of the ill-fated construction process, the council still harboured ambitions to one day finish the job that it had initially set out to do.
Given that the tram line needs to be longer to have any chance of attracting enough paying customers to wash its face then that is not an unreasonable aspiration.
So, it should have been at the front of people’s minds, when the much-needed £9 million upgrade of Leith Walk was ordered in the wake of the original tram works being completed.
Instead, we are now facing the prospect of ripping up and relaying some of that work before it has even been finished.
Sure, when the work was given the go-ahead, the prospect of finding the money and the political will to build more tram track in Edinburgh probably seemed as likely as Vladimir Romanov being welcomed back at Hearts.
But wise heads would have realised how quickly things can change as a result of, say, a new government or a fresh way of looking at local authority funding.
The prospect of a “sugar daddy” in the shape of a global investment company wanting to transform the St James Centre into a world-class retail and leisure destination might have come from leftfield, but the prospect of finding some form of funding in the next few years should never have been ruled out.
Of course, in the history of Edinburgh’s tram works this is a mere blip and will not affect the decision on whether or not to press ahead with more building at all.
The central question remains whether or not the benefits it would bring the city will outweigh the inevitable upheaval it will cause. The study commissioned by the council should go a long way towards answering that question.