Edinburgh tram costs: Is not bankrupting the city the best we can hope for now? – John McLellan

A recent survey of office staff showed that 85 per cent would prefer to work remotely at least two or three days a week, with clear implications for transport in a city dominated by office working like Edinburgh.

By John McLellan
Thursday, 19th November 2020, 7:00 am
Passenger numbers on Edinburgh's trams will be hit if air travel does not return to pre-Covid levels until 2024, as the International Air Travel Association expects (Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire)
Passenger numbers on Edinburgh's trams will be hit if air travel does not return to pre-Covid levels until 2024, as the International Air Travel Association expects (Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

This was no throw-away questionnaire but a study of 10,000 workers worldwide by international property experts CBRE, in whose interests it is to gain an accurate picture of future demand for commercial premises.

The implications for urban transport planners everywhere are enormous, and all major cities will need to re-calculate their passenger projections for years to come.

The new-found freedom of home-working tallies with the survey’s other finding, that over 90 per cent of managers believe productivity with home working is the same or better, so when lower business costs are factored in, reduced commuting is here to stay. The “new normal” is less daily travel.

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Combined with the International Air Travel Association’s expectation that air travel demand will not return to 2019 levels until 2024, it is patently obvious there is little chance of the more optimistic revisions of the tram business case being debated by Edinburgh Council today being realised.

As was revealed last week, the city is now locked into a project which in financial terms now has few positive outcomes, and it now seems the best we can expect is the minimum £207m cost will not quite be enough to bankrupt the city as long as everything goes according to plan.

“We didn’t go bust” is an odd measure of success.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny and Duddingston

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