Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wham, bam, thank you tram

As you might expect at this time of year, most of my Edinburgh-related posts concern artistic events. But there has been a major non-arty news story there over the past week, regarding Edinburgh's ill-starred tram scheme. Back in the 1950s Edinburgh had trams, and like everywhere else in Britain except Blackpool (which turned them into a tourist attraction in themselves) it got rid of them in favour of the "more modern" buses. Hah!

For longer than I can quantify without Googling there has been a proposal to build a new tram line in Edinburgh, and it was decided that it would run from the airport (about 7 miles out of town to the West) through the centre, along Princes Street (if you picture Edinburgh it's probably Princes Street you imagine) and down to Leith, the old port of Edinburgh (now home to the former Royal yacht Britannia, it's a newly-fashionable suburb full of upmarket flats and eateries, though it's also where the characters in Trainspotting came from in earlier days). All well and good, though the good folk of Edinburgh moaned rather a lot as the roads began to be dug up to lay tram lines. An early and especially disruptive stage of this was the digging up of Princes Street, now duly tram-enabled. There were also moans from tram-sceptics and councillors alike at the spiralling costs of the project, with the prime contractor being sued (successfully) for huge delays and cost over-runs.

So the decision last week to abort the whole thing except for the Westernmost segment form the airport to Haymarket station caused a huge outcry. Haymarket is Edinburgh's second station and lies on the lines to Glasgow and the North, but not the lines Southwards. It is situated just under half a mile west of the end of Princes Street, which is to say, in tourist terms, the middle of nowhere. It was predicted that such a line would lose around £4 million every year. Even worse, all the digging up of Princes Street would not only have been a total waste but would have to be repeated to tear up the already-laid track.

It appears that the Scottish government is to order a public enquiry which might, one hopes, have the power to over-rule this bizarre decision. I am as opposed to public waste as the next person, but saving a few million of capital spend in order to create a £4 million pa loss-maker and laughing-stock seems hard to justify.

To be continued, sometime.....

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