Copy of an opinion piece by Councillor Lesley Macinne, Convener of the Transport and Environment Committee, that appeared in the Edinburgh Evening News regarding the Trams to Newhaven project.
Edinburgh is praised for its unique heritage, its architectural treasures and historical landmarks. But we are equally proud of our capacity for change, for pushing the boundaries, be it through scientific research or cultural experimentation.
As we look to the future of transport and mobility in the Capital, we want to expand on this reputation. We are nothing if not adaptable, as centuries of industrial, cultural and technological revolution have shown us. As a living, breathing city our policy choices need to reflect its evolution.
Today, we face yet another period of significant change. Our population continues to grow at speed - by 2041 the number of people living in Edinburgh is expected to rise by 15% to nearly 583,000 – while the pressure to limit climate change has never been more prevalent.
It’s clear that we need act now and our ambitious approach to transport strategy is a good place to start. Later this month, on Leith Walk we will begin the main phase of construction workon perhaps our most high-profile projects to deliver sustainable, accessible transport in the Capital – Trams to Newhaven.
Not only will the extended line open up a wealth of opportunities to this vibrant part of the city, but high-tech trams, each carrying up to 250 passengers, in tandem with our excellent Lothian bus service, will provide reliable transport for many thousands more people. This is what we need if we are to cut congestion and drive down air pollution. By reducing the number of cars on our roads this will undoubtedly help us achieve our zero carbon 2030 goal.
Of course, we know from experience that a project of this scale can be challenging for local people and businesses and we’ve been working to keep the community informed. We’ve spent many months working with traders to make sure they have the support they need with a £2.4 million Support for Business package in place, as well as logistics hubs and cargo bikes to facilitate deliveries, a business continuity fund and free business improvement courses.
With the first phase of construction work already underway on Constitution Street, we’re learning all the time. Here, a multimedia ‘open for business’ campaign and itison £5 voucher scheme offering shoppers £10 to spend in shops, cafes and restaurants is proving extremely popular. We’re also planning to bring the community with us as we carry out fascinating archaeological work in the area, where our City Archaeologist expects to unearth artefacts dating back to the medieval times.
Of course, with the first passenger services timetabled for 2023, Trams to Newhaven’s completion is in sight, but there are a great deal more forward-thinking schemes in the pipeline to help us achieve an efficient, sustainable and environmentally-friendly transport future.
The draft City Mobility Plan, which is currently under consultation, sets out a ten-year vision to shape the way people, services and goods are moved around the Capital, focusing on public transport provision, improved cycling, walking and reducing the volume of polluting traffic. In a similar vein, our bold ambitions for City Centre Transformation will put people at the heart of Edinburgh. Pedestrianised streets, hopper buses and improved public realm will create a welcoming environment. And under our plans for Low Emission Zones, we will tackle the harmful, limiting impacts of air pollution.
These are only a few of the pioneering policies underway here in Edinburgh, where we’ve been at the forefront of progressive transport decision-making for some time – from citywide 20mph zones to School Streets or our commitment to spend 10% of our transport budget on cycling infrastructure.
Now, in the face of increasing pressures, it’s clear that we need to be even bolder if we are to create a city fit for the future – and we’re up for the challenge.