Anger as tram workers make tracks for Leith

Keith Hales says Leithers are angry
Keith Hales says Leithers are angry
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TRADERS in Leith have been left furious after being told the street will have to undergo six months of new tram roadworks – even though the line will stop in the city centre.

Contractors are to be sent in to deal with “snagging issues” left over from the original utility work carried out for the project.

The work, costing at least £1 million, will lead to various traffic diversions between York Place and Newhaven, with most of the work carried out on Leith Walk and Constitution Street.

The plan had been to return to finish the utility work when the tracks were laid but with the truncated line now ending at St Andrew Square/York Place, it still needs to be completed.

The project is separate from the £3.4m reinstatement works – involving re-tarmacing roads and pavements on Leith Walk – planned for later this year.The utilities project must be largely completed before then.

Today residents and traders spoke of their anger at being forced to endure more disruption, and at not being told of the new works.

Keith Hales, who owns Leith Walk Barbers Salon and is vice-chairman of the Leith Business Association, said local residents and traders were angry at the failure to inform them of the work.

He said: “I find it difficult to believe this work wasn’t done when they dug up Leith Walk the first time.

“We also haven’t been told anything about this. You’d think the council would have some obligation to inform us that there’s going to be works.”

Mr Hales added that those in the area have been waiting for the reinstatement works to begin.

He added: “Those behind this project keep finding reasons to put off the public realm reinstatement works. It’s been nearly two years since they did any work on Leith Walk and we’re just waiting and waiting for it to be put back to the way it was.

“It’s unacceptable.”

Fellow trader Grant Kavanagh, director of printers Arkay Imaging, said work to repair the streets was welcomed, but feared the impact of disruption on business.

He said: “The state of the pavements and roads are absolutely atrocious, and we’ve lost a lot of people because it’s so difficult to move around the area.

“I would welcome anything the council does to re-surface the roads and pavements but we need to be told what is happening.”

Although the York Place to Newhaven route is no longer being built, council chiefs still have an obligation to Scottish Water to install new manholes. These would have enabled engineers to access the utilities network when tram tracks blocked the existing ones. The water board also requires the council to carry out a range of other repairs.

Leith Walk councillor Maggie Chapman said: “Leith Walk has been waiting for public realm improvements for some time now, and the tram project was seen as one way of achieving these.

“With trams now stopping at York Place, we need to ensure that there are not any obstacles to improving the public environment of Leith Walk, and I hope that these preparatory works can be done quickly and with as little inconvenience as possible.”

A spokesman for the tram project said contractors would attempt to minimise disruption. He added: “The majority [of works] are relatively minor and local access should be maintained throughout. We will work to ensure that disruption is kept to an absolute minimum.”