Robert Aldridge: Public transport is about much more than trams

An artist's impression of trams at the top of Leith Walk
An artist's impression of trams at the top of Leith Walk
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In the next few weeks the council will vote on whether to extend the tram line to Leith. An important decision, and we as Lib Dems, have been clear that we need to take on board the findings of the Tram Inquiry before we consider signing any contracts.

Of course we need to pay close attention to the results of the consultation, especially from residents and traders in Leith who have already been through the pain once without seeing any gain.

Robert Aldridge is the Lib Dem Group leader at Edinburgh City Council. Picture: Jane Barlow

Robert Aldridge is the Lib Dem Group leader at Edinburgh City Council. Picture: Jane Barlow

But we also need to recognise that good public transport in the city is about more than trams. We have an excellent locally owned bus company – Lothian Buses – one of whose best services I use every day.

But there are also parts of the city which are very poorly served by public transport. In fact, some in the more rural parts of West Edinburgh are having their already pretty poor services slashed even further.

If the city is serious about reducing polluting car traffic in the city centre and improving air quality on the main roads, we don’t just need a Local Emission Zone (and yes we do need one). We also need to make it easy for Edinburgh residents, wherever they live in our city to use a regular, reliable and reasonably frequent bus service to get them to and from work and other important appointments without having to resort to using their car.

So it is important that when we consider the pros and cons of the tram case we also put it in the context of ensuring equitable access to the public transport network in Edinburgh for all our citizens. That’s why the Lib Dems called for a wider public transport strategy to be considered at the same time as the tram vote.

Meanwhile the £25 garden waste tax lurches from problem to problem. Who in their right mind would have held the registration process in the school holiday period? Who would have closed registrations in July? Why close them at all before the (delayed) implementation date? It is no wonder that registrations are way below target. More importantly, as one of my constituents eloquently put it: “How can they manage to take all my council tax without me having to set up an online account with ‘myscot’, yet I need an online presence, a strong password, a council account and several attempts for them to relieve me of £25?”

Those who are not online have to have the terms and conditions sent to them and then they have to return them before £25 can be taken. It takes about a week.

I genuinely wonder whether someone is deliberately sabotaging the SNP and Labour administration or whether they really are deliberately shooting themselves in the foot with this ridiculous tax.

The continuing row over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party has been joined by equally abhorrent Islamophobic comments in the Conservative Party following Boris Johnson’s self-indulgent and self publicising tirade about the niqab.

The only thing more abhorrent than racism itself is those who seek to inflame it for their own party political ends. In our fantastic international capital city, let’s continue to show we positively welcome people of all faiths, creeds, colours and opinions and celebrate our values of tolerance, diversity and respect.

Robert Aldridge is the Lib Dem Group leader at Edinburgh City Council