Edinburgh trams: North-south line, Granton to Dalkeith, could go via Western General Hospital and Orchard Brae
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Transport convener Scott Arthur said the change could would benefit staff and patients and provide a direct link between the Western General and the Royal Infirmary.
The original route planned for the Granton section of the line was along the Roseburn cycle path, then last year an alternative emerged of going via Crewe Toll Orchard Brae. And now Cllr Arthur said a "hybrid" route was being considered, starting off using the Roseburn path, but also taking the line past the Western General and up Orchard Brae. More work has to be done – including costing the different routes – before options are outlined as part of a public consultation planned for next year.
Cllr Arthur said he had recently walked the routes with council officers and believed there had to be good connections to the retail park at Craigleith and, most importantly, the Western General Hospital. “At the moment [the proposed route] goes up the Roseburn path all the way to Granton – it doesn’t get close enough to the hospital to really meet the needs of what we're want to do.”
He said the hybrid option would divert the route at the retail park to take it right to the perimeter of the hospital. As well as helping patients it would give staff an easier commute and provide a connection between the Western General and the Infirmary.
The route would then go up Orchard Brae, but Cllr Arthur said there were problems with that. “There will be a desire to keep buses, have good active travel and have trams and there's quite a lot of traffic goes up there just now. Even if it's just essential traffic - traffic to the hospital and traffic to the properties on the road, there's still a lot of movements and we're back to a Leith Walk situation where we're trying to do too much with not enough space. On paper Orchard Brae looks quite good but when you're there and see the reality of it, not quite so good – but there maybe is potential."
Asked about how a “Leith Walk situation” could be avoided, he said: "We couldn't find ourselves in that position again where we were trying to do everything in not enough space. You could make [Orchard Brae] tram plus access only or tram plus buses plus access only, but how do you have access only for a road that has a hospital on it?"
He said the hybrid route would then go from Orchard Brae along Queensferry Road and connect at the end of Princes Street. But that would mean the challenge of taking trams across the historic Dean Bridge. Cllr Arthur said: "I think it would have to go down to single running to get it across. The two lines would have to coalesce there. And obviously it's a listed structure and I would hate to see the overhead pylons going across it, personally."
He said the Roseburn path was an attractive option because there was already a rail bed there and less concrete would be needed, meaning less carbon impact. But he said there would have to be an alternative pedestrian and cycle path if the trams took over the current one. "We'd have to make sure there was a like-for-like replacement for any active travel capacity lost there."
If the route changes from the one agreed in 2006, it will need to be approved by parliament, which could take 18 months to two years, although work on the project might be able to proceed in the meantime.