Tram works turning off city centre visits

Picture:  Greg Macvean
Picture: Greg Macvean
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THE number of shoppers visiting Edinburgh’s city centre has slumped since tram works were reinstated on Princes Street, new figures reveal.

The average number of people passing through the city centre each week had fallen by nearly 14,000 to 102,000 within a fortnight of work starting on September 10.

As today’s Evening News Edinburgh Index reveals, overall footfall is already down by eight per cent on the same month last year.

Essential Edinburgh, the group which represents city centre traders, said the figures were disappointing but the clearing of tram works as of November 24 will mark the launch of a major drive to showcase the festive season.

Chief executive Andy Neal said: “There is some indication people aren’t coming into the city centre, but looking forward there are plans in place to make this an absolutely outstanding Christmas and Hogmanay.”

Of the five footfall counters – monitored by the city council to reflect commerce – the one at Marks & Spencer saw the biggest fall, with numbers dropping from 280,000 to 210,000 in just two weeks.

Although some of that was picked up in George Street, where buses are now re-routed to, Essential Edinburgh said the numbers were lower than expected.

The footfall figures emerged in the council’s monthly Edinburgh Economy Watch.

Mr Neal said he hoped the cessation of works for Christmas and new television adverts for the winter festival will attract shoppers back again.

He said: “As soon as you take buses off Princes Street that is going to reduce footfall and there will be an increase in George Street.

“However, that George Street uplift wasn’t quite as strong as it was last time [Princes Street was closed] and perhaps that suggests there are fewer people coming into the city centre in total.

“With all the publicity around the works people may think it’s not worth coming in.

“That means the clearing of tram works on November 24 will be all the more important, and we can give businesses the chance to catch up by making the best Christmas we can.”

He said the launch of the Edinburgh Sparkles campaign, which will be advertised on television for the first time this week, along with street events and late opening hours for stores would be a much needed boost for retailers.

Council leader Jenny Dawe added: “We do acknowledge the difficulties and challenges the tram works have created for the city centre, especially for the business community, which is why we are providing close to £900,000 over the next two years to provide tailored support to businesses and other stakeholders.”