Comment: Is this now the age of the tram?

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WHEN the Edinburgh tram bungle was its height, 
opponents raged that it was mismanaged, over budget and over engineered. These points are difficult to argue with.

But the other key argument repeatedly made was that Edinburgh simply didn’t need a tram network. Our buses were among the very best in Britain. They were cheap, efficient and served all corners of the city well.

The pro-tram counterpoint was that Edinburgh was a growing city, its population and popularity rising. We needed a modern, efficient, transportation city that would drag more people out of their cars. And, crucially, a method of transport that didn’t belch out pollutants on to the high street.

The Volkswagen controversy has shown that diesel is not the green fuel that some had claimed. Couple that with the figures revealed in the News about the pollution levels in St John’s Road and suddenly relying on buses doesn’t seem like a great idea after all. So, was building a tram a bright idea after all?

Yes, Lothian Buses is investing in cleaner technology and hybrids but this isn’t available on all services. The nitrogen dioxide levels in Corstorphine are soaring now due to the sheer volume of traffic in that area.

The situation has become so heated that a candidate for next year’s Holyrood elections has called for a supermarket application to be rejected on St John’s Road because it will exacerbate pollution levels.

The truth is that if we don’t shift some car users on to cleaner forms of transport then more areas than St John’s Road will find themselves breaching EU safety limits. If we hadn’t built a tram, right now there would be a campaign to construct one.

Yes, it was over budget and caused years of heartache. But now that we have it, perhaps it’s time to breathe in and admit that the tram is not such a bad thing after all.