Leithers voice their concerns over tram extension

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LEITH residents are demanding assurances that the proposed tram extension will not repeat the mistakes of the original project.

They said the community had been “badly burnt” the last time and voiced fears the £165 million scheme was being rushed.

Leithers are divided over the issue of the proposed tram extension.

Leithers are divided over the issue of the proposed tram extension.

Leith Central Community Council said it was not opposed in principle to the extension – provided that lessons from the original “fiasco” would be acted on and Leith Walk’s vitality was not compromised.

But it said it had “serious concerns” about the design philosophy and readiness of the project.

Vice-chair Harald Tobermann said: “A tram line is a fine thing if it is designed well and operated well, but it is a very intrusive thing to bring into the most densely-populated place in Scotland which has already suffered hardship from the previous project.

“We wonder whether the council as an institution has learned enough. If this goes wrong, the people of Leith Walk will pay a very heavy price.”

A shortlist of firms wanting to build the extension from York Place to Newhaven has already been drawn up, but the city council will not make the final decision on whether to go ahead until the autumn. The timetable shows services operating on the new length of track by 2022.

Mr Tobermann said: “It sounds a long time when you say it won’t be up and running until 2022, but they want to go on site in May next year and they have sent the tender papers to the bidders before the consultation is even finished.

“Having failed Leith Walk so spectacularly during the 2007-2010 effort to build a tram route and the subsequent painfully slow remediation efforts, we insist that any further attempt to insert major infrastructure into one of Edinburgh’s premier streets is focused on the highest possible quality of planning, execution and final outcome.”

In a ten-page response to the consultation on the plans the community council criticised proposals for a central reservation with “pedestrian deterrent” paving down the middle of Leith Walk as “wholly unacceptable” and argued there were too few pedestrian crossings in the current proposals.

It also highlighted concerns about parking. The current plan is for two lanes of traffic in each direction, with the two central lanes reserved for trams and buses at peak periods but available for all traffic off-peak, leaving the other lanes available for parking. But the community council wants the central lanes reserved for trams and buses at all times and says parking should be provided in side streets.

The consultation on the tram extension closed on Sunday. Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said: “Every single bit of feedback will be invaluable. We’ve recorded the comments received. Our next task will be to take that feedback and use it to re-examine the draft plans for traffic management, business support and final street design before bringing forward further consultation at the end of the summer.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com