Lesley Hinds: Take advantage of trams opportunity

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Traffic will return to the West End this weekend, meaning that Edinburgh’s city centre will be free of major tram works. This is a very significant milestone in this most challenging of projects, not only because it means that we’re now very close to an operational service, but also because residents and traders can get back to normality.

But it’s not quite normality, because very soon there will be a new tram service passing through the area, directly connecting it to the airport and other parts of the city. There is real opportunity to make the very most of the opportunities that lie ahead and I’m determined that through Transport for Edinburgh the tram, bus service and other transport options become fully integrated. It really is the time to embrace the benefits that a modern, integrated transport system – incorporating all options – can bring to our city. This, combined with a big marketing effort to encourage residents, visitors and investors back into the city centre, can set a course for success.

Our target for service launch is May 2014, but we’ll bring this forward if we can. It’s important to remember that a thorough testing, commissioning and driver training programme is absolutely essential.

As we reinstate the roads and pavements, put up signs and line the streets we’re getting feedback about how things are working. There will be a natural bedding in period so we’re keen to take in the views of road users about how they feel the new arrangements are working. Cyclists have already raised some concerns and we are considering how best to deal with these. The system was consulted on and designed some years back and now that work is nearing completion we understand that we may need to adapt signage, road markings and other layout elements.

We’ll be in a position to make changes when the project is complete if they are required, so let us know what you think by contacting trams@edinburgh.gov.uk.

It’s going to be a busy few months for the project as the city opens up, as test trams start to run and as we prepare to launch the new service. The trams are coming.