Cars could be set to share single lanes with trams along part of Leith Walk under blueprints for the next stage of Edinburgh’s tram project.
Edinburgh City Council is shaking up its design for the proposed extension of the tramline to Newhaven - and work could start on the scheme by Spring next year, subject to approval.
Following workshop sessions with local businesses, partner organisations including Lothian Buses and active travel groups - a preferred option for the layout between Pilrig Street and the Foot of Leith Walk will be pushed forward.
READ MORE: What are the options for Leith Walk tram development?
This option includes just one lane in each direction for all traffic including trams and cars, segregated cycleways and maximised space for pedestrians on each side of the street. There would also be a central verge to be used as a safe crossing point - as well as space for parking and loading on both sides of the road.
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Council officials will work up the preferred option into a more detailed design ahead of the next round of consultation.
Transport and Environment Convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said: “We have come forward with some quite different changes. We are very grateful to the people who came to talk to us and help inform what we are doing.
“I think this is a very exciting stage of the project because we are beginning to pull everything together very nicely. We have had a big positive response to what we brought forward to that workshop and what emerged from it from some of the key stakeholders.”
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Once detailed designs have been finalised, further consultation will be held towards the end of the summer. The final business case will then be presented to the council in November, with the council expected to determine final approval in December.
Work on the project, which is estimated to cost £165.2m, could get underway by the end of Spring next year.
Hannah Ross, the council’s senior officer responsible for the tram project, said: “We got a lot of responses, particularly from the active travel community who had concerns particularly about what they felt was a compromised cycle path.
“We are suggesting that we introduce three new signalised crossings and additional uncontrolled crossings depending on what we get to in the final layout.”
Under the proposals, traffic would be held by a red light while the trams pass through the single lane area, where there will be no tram stops.
READ MORE: Work to extend Edinburgh trams to Leith ‘could start in 2019’
A number of issues with the preferred option need to be ironed out, including access for emergency vehicles in case one or both running lanes are blocked.
Ms Ross added: “We will be talking to the emergency services about that.
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“It was something that was raised at the workshop and we think it can be overcome.”
Other changes that have been made to the design from Picardy Place to Newhaven include moving the location of the proposed Balfour Street tram stop, three new signalised pedestrian crossings between Pilrig Street and the Foot of the Walk, changes to the alignment at the south end of Constitution Street and signalised junctions at Albert Street and Manderston Street.
Green councillors had withdrawn support for the initial proposals, based on a lack of provision for active travel users. But Cllr Chas Booth welcomed the latest design plans.
He said: “Green councillors warmly welcome the improvements to the design on Leith Walk, including more space for those walking and cycling.
“We wait to see further detail of what’s proposed, and need to be assured that the journey times and punctuality for the tram will be maintained. The revised plans are a big step forward compared to the original design, and show that Green pressure for a people-friendly tram extension is starting to pay off.”