North-south tram line by 2030 under new council plan

An ambitious decade-long transport plan for Edinburgh - designed to fight climate change, air pollution, congestion and inequality in the city – has been unveiled by council chiefs.
Edinburgh Tram Depot, GogarEdinburgh Tram Depot, Gogar
Edinburgh Tram Depot, Gogar

The council’s City Mobility Plan, due to be presented at a meeting of the transport committee on Friday February 19, includes plans for a north-south tram line to be operational by 2030, a review of the city’s bus network by 2023, new consolidating governance arrangements for the city’s transport operators, and creating a network of vehicle-free streets in Old Town.

Although the council has been trying to keep air pollution down through Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs), several of these - the city centre, St John’s Road, Great Junction Street, Glasgow Road (Newbridge) and Inverleith Row - exceeded targeted nitrogen dioxide levels.

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Breathing air containing a high concentration of nitrogen dioxide can lead to respiratory problems, and contribute to the development of asthma in children who live in high-pollution neighbourhoods.

Electric charging pointsElectric charging points
Electric charging points

Another pollutant - fine particulate matter - is associated with around 200 attributable deaths in Edinburgh and around 22,500 lost life years across the Scottish population.

With an estimated 40 per cent of capital residents unable to afford a car, the council is also aiming to tackle inequality in Edinburgh by extending the tram network into the west of the city, creating a north-south tram line by 2030 and completing a review of the city’s bus network by 2023.

The SNP convener of the council’s transport committee, Leslie Macinnes, says Edinburgh residents spend £1bn a year in transport - or £360 per month per household.

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The Liberton and Gilmerton councillor said: “Congestion costs the average driver in Edinburgh £795 a year extra, because of sitting in traffic - what is the cost to business as well?

'It's not about hating cars' - Lesley Macinnes'It's not about hating cars' - Lesley Macinnes
'It's not about hating cars' - Lesley Macinnes

“If you start to look in those terms - like the £80 a week the average Edinburgh family spends on transport a week - transport costs the city, the people who live in it, the people who work in it, the businesses, the council as well.

“Transport costs the city £1bn a year. It will be £1.3bn by the end of this decade.

“These are the things that I think can make people understand clearly why we’re trying to make some changes, and not just accept the status quo.

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“So along with our population growth, those are kinds of facts and figures that will make people stop and think.”

By 2023, the council also aims to have completed: a safety review of major junctions; a review of school travel plans; a consultation on further 20mph zones; the installation of 132 electric vehicle charging bays; a consultation on a workplace parking levy; and the final completion of the Roseburn to Union Canal active travel route and City Centre West to East Link.

City Centre councillor, and Labour vice convener of the transport committee, Karen Doran said: “The bottom line is giving people choices, and actually sharing the space, and making it more sustainable for everyone.

“It’s obvious a lot of people don’t like change - there’s no doubt about that - but this document has been worked on and discussed for a long time, it’s not like it’s suddenly appearing on people’s doorsteps.

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“It’s been talked about so much for so long, this has been brought forward to give people choices - how do you want to live on your street? What kind of air do you want to breathe?

“If we don’t help bring about these changes then what job are doing? The whole point of sustainability is how people live their lives, how they have choices and how they share the space.

“It’s not about hating cars - it’s about choices and how we share the space.”

Councillor Macinnes added: “It boils down to: reducing congestion, improving the health of the city, giving people options to travel more sustainably, and reducing the impact of transport on people’s lives.

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“By that, we’re talking congestion, air pollution, and general health.

“Inevitably there’s a regionalisation aspect to all of this - we’ve got too many cars coming in from outside. We have masses of commuting under normal circumstances.

“What that does - first of all it produces enormous congestion, and air pollution problems, but it also causes delays in public transport and all sorts of issues around parking in residential areas.

“Those are the sort of quality of life issues that we have in our communities.”

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