Tram disruption to be discussed at council meeting

By Marion Guichaoua

A motion will be discussed by the Council this week about the traffic issues created by the tram’s installation and the new traffic lights in the city center.

The council have said: “The council notes with concern that, six months after the start of tram operations, the combination of traffic lights between Leith Street and Waverley Bridge are still causing considerable delays to traffic.

“Further notes that this effect has greatest impact on buses and cyclists but also affects general traffic and, occasionally, trams.

“Considering that long waits for west bound traffic, even for an east bound tram which will not cross the same path, are frustrating for travelers. “

The tram of Edinburgh is a 14-kilometre line between York Place in New town and Edinburgh Airport, with 15 stops.

The line opened on 31 May 2014.

The final cost of the tram is expected to top £1 billion.

Chris Hill, from the City Cycling Edinburgh Forum said: “There are all sorts of issues related to trams – not least people falling off on the tracks, particularly when wet.

“Most concerns about trams and traffic signals have been to do with the long delays caused by the timings. “

Councilor Whyte calls for a report to the Transport & Environment Committee within the two cycles setting out a full solution to this issue.

The council have refused to comment on the issue at this time.

 

 

 

Tram Advertising Slammed By Public

by Alicia Simpson and Melissa Steel

The Edinburgh Trams may be able to recoup part of the estimated £1 billion it has cost to get them up and running. Our reporters, Alicia Simpson and Melissa Steel, went to find out more.

 

The trams, currently being tested throughout the city, could have wrap-around advertising and even be named by companies.

This scheme could earn Edinburgh Trams an extra £1.5 million a year, on top of an expected £15 million in fares.

Andrews Burns, Edinburgh Council leader, told STV news: “I would like to think the vast majority of the Edinburgh population would be supportive of this.”

However, when Edinburgh Napier News went down to Haymarket Railway Station, a main thoroughfare affected by the tram works, we found the public were less than sympathetic – and even had a few colourful suggestions for tram names.

Tram outside Haymarket Station.

Tram outside Haymarket Station.

 

 

Anger as Council Bosses Approve George Street Changes

23George_Street,_Edinburgh

By Fraser Ryan

Edinburgh City Council bosses have been criticised over plans to implement a twelve month trial to turn George Street into a one way street.

The Edinburgh City Council’s Transport and Environment Committee have angered fellow councillors and members of the public by deciding to approve a trial one way system in George Street. The plan will see the pavements in George Street extended to accommodate street events, as well as introduce a two-way cycle route.

Plans to implement the same plans on Princes Street were rejected, meaning the street will remain two-way during the initial twelve month trail period. It is unlikely any alterations will be made to Princes Street until the Trams are operational by May 2014.

Joanna Mowat, a city centre councillor and Conservative transport spokeswoman, said it would be “foolish” to introduce the system, and called it one of the worst schemes she had “ever seen in local ­government. We are flying in the face of what the architects of the city wanted, what businesses want, what pedestrians want and what cyclists want,” she said.

Gordon Henderson, spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses Scotland, said that its members felt they had been “comprehensively ignored”.

According to a poll conducted by the Federation, only 35% of people supported the move, while 27% were in favour of splitting the bus services between the two streets.

David Porteous, a senior council official who authored the report, defended the council’s decision, saying “Respondents were sceptical about the benefits of introducing a one-way system to the city centre, arguing that traffic would be displaced if no ­developments in alternative transport provision or better linkages between other parts of the city were provided.”

More tram works, yet the end is in sight

Yet more traffic disruption: Edinburgh trams. Image: geograph.org.uk / cc.

The next set of tram works are due to begin this weekend.

The existing tram works at Shandwick Place and Haymarket are now being extended to cover West Maitland Street.

The works are set to take place from 5’oclock tomorrow morning with other traffic divisions being put in place.

Edinburgh Council has thanked the local businesses, people and commuters for their patience with the ongoing works and all their disruptions.

The City of Edinburgh Council warns of traffic disruptions and journey delays as a result of the ongoing tram works.

The works, which many feel are taking over the city centre, are feared to be a danger to businesses in the area. Apart from the general traffic disruptions the works are feared to bring a negative image to commuters and tourists coming from the nearby Haymarket train station.

The council offers an ‘Open for Business’ budget, in which £175,000 will be invested. The programme was created to encourage visitors to Edinburgh and sustain footfall in the city centre.

Yet many criticise the council for their lack of help with diverted walk ways and in particular, pointing pathways though the maze of road works for customers. The tram works stretch from Haymarket to the West End and Princess Street t oWaverley Bridge but they are due to be completed in June this year.

Tram project set to move on after setback

by Sean McLennan and Oliver Hughes

The chairman of Transport Edinburgh, Lothian buses and TIE ltd, David Mackay, this morning made an executive decision to step down from his position at the three organisations. His resignation will come into immediate effect after his growing frustration over the progress of the controversial tram system.

Press officer, Lynn McMath of Transport Initiative Edinburgh (TIE) stated, “We are sad to lose him, but we understand the reason he had to leave. Edinburgh tram project will continue with the strategy that David implemented. The board fully endorsed his strategy.” Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council, Councillor Jenny Daw told the press “Urgent steps will be taken to ensure that we build upon the very substantial foundation that he has built.”

David McKay came under particular pressure with regard to TIE’s relationship to German contractor ‘Bilfinger Berger’, who he referred to in a recent interview with the Scotsman as delinquent contractor’. A statement with a notably different tone to his speech given in today’s press release.

“This project has been an enormously absorbing one and as such there was never going to be an entirely ideal time to step aside. In the past few months I have been keen to see a number of milestones set in place and this I have now done. I believe that for every Chair there comes an important juncture when the most powerful action you can take is to pass the controls to a successor and to then watch that organisation develop further under a new champion.

“The last few years have been stimulating and challenging and I believe that considerable progress has been made across many fronts and particularly, on Trams, where our imperative to protect the public purse has been notably successful.

“The time has now come when it is appropriate for me to move on which should allow me to refocus my energies on to a better, and probably much overdue, calmer work/life balance.

“I would particularly like to pay tribute to the many colleagues and peers I have worked with and those at Edinburgh Trams in particular who have shown remarkable resilience and energy in the face of what has been at times, a very difficult and complex situation”.

The German contractor is placed at the centre of many problems surrounding the project ranging from overflowing budget that has risen from 545mil to an estimated 600mil and the projects lack of  progress. McMath commented: “The dispute is centered around Bilfinger Berger but the negotiation team are currently looking for a solution to the problem.”

The advancement of the project now suspected to rest in the hands of chief executives Richard Jeffrey or Iain Craig though no single predecessor has been officially announced.

Trams in chaos as chairman resigns

The ill-fated Edinburgh Trams project has been thrown into further chaos with the resignation of the chairman David MacKay yesterday, leaving the multi-million pound project’s future in jeopardy.

After his resignation, 67-year old MacKay, who was also Chairman of Lothian Buses, criticised the German company in charge of the project and believes that a Scottish company may have done a better job had they been awarded the original contract, and went on to launch a scathing attack on Bilfinger Berger.

MacKay said: “we found crazy things like wires under Princes Street and cables were not where they should be. It was hell on wheels.”

MacKay, a transport expert, who spent nearly 40 years at distributor John Menzies, as well as working for the Scottish Rugby Union prior to his appointment as also described Bilfinger Berger as “delinquent contractor who scented a victim.”

The £545 million project has currently stalled due to a dispute over money with the German contractors, but Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney has said that the project will receive no further government funding, which puts the future of the project in doubt.

At the moment, it is hoped that the project will be finished late next year, but this now seems highly optimistic, with the likelihood that the saga will end in the courtrooms.

Even the deadline set earlier this year of June 2013 now seems to be at serious risk, as the project threatens to spiral out of control.

Upon hearing of MacKay’s resignation, leader of Edinburgh Council Jenny Dawe voiced her thanks for his work, and confirmed the search for MacKay’s successor is already underway.

She said: “We are disappointed to be losing the drive, commercial expertise and commitment which David brought to his Chairmanship of Transport Edinburgh.”

MacKay has now retired, and confirmed he would not be staying on to serve any period of notice following his resignation.

His claims are expected to be refuted by Bilinger Berger, and it remains to be seen if these comments will cause any further damage to an already fragmented relationship between the two parties.

Leith Traders get Christmas break from tram works

Embattled traders in Leith walk won their plea to suspend  the tram works for more than a month over Christmas this week.

The decision comes after an announcement by tram firm TIE that Constitution Street is to be reopened over the festive period having been closed for over a year.

The street will now remain free of all tram work until January, although some road barriers will still remain in place, with traffic being controlled.

Susan Clark, deputy project director said: “Having consulted with the local community and taken into consideration the current stage of the works in the area, we are pleased to advice that apart from one or two sections of minor cabling work Leith walk will be clear of tram works over the festive period between the end of November and 4 January, 2010″

This has been warmly welcomed by traders in the area and Gordon Burgess of the Leith Business Association, who felt they were being unfairly treated.

He said: “We may not have a Harvey Nichols, a Frasers or a Marks and Spencer, but were still important to the city. Princes Street have had constant advertisement letting shoppers know they are still open for trade, while we have quite frankly been forgotten.”

Earlier today Edinburgh Napier News spoke with Leith florist Carolyn Design Florist, owner Sara Morgan estimates her shop has lost almost half its trade since the tram project began. She looks forward to the road opening  and hopefully a Christmas boost for her sales.

Unlock Princes Street

Edinburgh+Tram+Projects+Looks+Set+Run+Over+F3wGYKrduxel

(Photo courtesy of Zimbio) Works in progress...

by Luke Rajczuk

The ongoing works over the tram project in Edinburgh are under scrutiny of rules and deadlines imposed by the City Council and upcoming festive period.

The busiest street of Edinburgh, Princes Street has been closed due to the tram works for nearly a year and is causing a lot of chaos for local means of communication and tourism.

It seems that the local authorities have had enough of the slow process of the construction and are setting a deadline for the 28th of November for the traffic to be returned to the street. The Council explain the rushing up thus; it would be a major embarrassment for the city if the works are not completed in time. Also according to the high street retailers even if the project gets delayed by a week it causes massive damage to their businesses’ turnover.

Because of the fast approaching deadline the workers involved with the project are forced to work over the weekend and during the night. As the plan is to get the work done by the end of the month further overtime work is planned.

Council leader Jenny Dawe said: “It is all going to plan for reopening Princes Street, but it will be right up to the wire, there is no doubt about that.”

Not only the Trams are facing

Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie said: “It’s vitally important to have the street back open in time. TIE appear to be confident of meeting the deadline and the public are looking forward to having Princes Street restored to its former glory. They now have to do everything possible to make sure it’s ready on time.”

Mandy Haeburn-Little, director of communications and customer service from TIE, the company responsible for the tram project reassured that sections of Princes Street would be ready for handover on the morning of 26 November in time for the Edinburgh Sparkles campaign.

Traffic returns to Princes Street

by Samantha Taylor

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Tram works on Princes Street

Buses, taxis and bicycles should be back on Princes Street by the end of November following the completion of the tram infrastructure works according to a new council report.

The report suggests that bus traffic will be back on Edinburgh’s main street by the 28 and 29 November, much to the benefit of businesses and shoppers.

The six week period following the completion of the tram works is important for the trading performance of retailers, with around 30% of annual turnover being achieved during the Christmas and New Year season.

The end of the tram infrastructure works could have allowed Princes Street to become a temporary pedestrian zone over the festive period but the new report suggests that, on balance, bus traffic should be allowed back on the street.

Council Leader, Cllr Jenny Dawe, said: “We recognise that the Christmas and New Year period is a critical time of year for traders and have acknowledged, and acted upon, their strong desire for bus traffic to be re-instated to Princes Street at the end of November. It will also make it much easier for residents and visitors to access the excellent shops and events in the heart of the city.

The news was also welcomed by city centre traders.

Gordon Drummond. general manager of Harvey Nichols, said: “I am very pleased that the city centre will return to normal for Christmas and that we will be able to market Edinburgh as being open for business.

“It is important that people can take buses and taxis along Princes Street and all shops will be back to normal for Christmas shopping.”

Tram project derailed yet…

by Luke Rajczuktrams

Edinburgh tram project is in a very troubling financial situation according to the spokesman of Tie, the company responsible for the works.

It is now £200 million over budget spent on the futuristic modernization of Edinburgh with the ‘rocket-like’ trams. The local MSPs express their fury about the loss of control over spending where the final cost of Edinburgh’s tram project could reach £750m – £250m more than originally planned by the date of completion in 2012.

Tie is of a different opinion however. They claim spending goes within the budget and that the city’s MSPs strongly exaggerate the figures and use the media to conduct discussions instead of asking direct questions to the Council and Tie themselves. The project managing company claim the programme is making good progress and is on track to be clear of Princes Street at the end of November as planned.

The project’s cost was originally estimated at £498m. Jenny Dawe, Edinburgh City  Council leader, said: “The funding situation and projected delivery date for trams running on the street has not changed since being reported to the council last month.

“The dispute resolution process is currently underway and both the council and Tie are committed to ensuring that we come in as close to budget as possible.

The MSPs also suggest there might be a significant delay in meeting the deadline and finishing the project by 2012 speculating it may even take until 2015 to complete all works.

Mandy Haeburn-Little, Tie spokeswoman, said: “Categorically there is nothing to suggest that the programme will extend beyond 2012 as had been stated publicly.

“The programme is making good progress and is on track to be clear of Princes Street at the end of November as planned.”

It all looks like a dispute between the Edinburgh political scene and the actual company producing the project. Taking both sides into account should one be worried?

A naked future for Britain’s streets?

by Kirstyn Smith

An interesting new way of outlining London’s streets could soon be a reality, thanks to Boris Johnson’s plans to render the streets of London ‘naked’. 

However, this is not a case of the controversial mayor contemplating a mass public nudity bylaw.  Rather, he proposes to remove traffic lights, street signs and road markings in an innovative concept known as ‘shared space’.

Shared space is a theory pioneered by Hans Monderman – a Dutch traffic engineer and inventor.  The scheme is intended to get rid of the traditional seperation between road users and pedestrians by removing kerbs, lines, signs and signals.  It is thought that by eliminating the physical barriers put in place to reduce motorists’ speed, this allows drivers and pedestrians to essentially ‘share’ the streets, urging both parties to become more cautious and aware of the other.  As a result, it is hoped that road safety will be improved, as users will be forced to negotiate their way through shared ares at appropriate speeds and with due consideration for the other users of the space.drachten

Discussing the potential project, Johnson enthused: “I’m a great fan of naked streets.  I envisage a future where pavements would blend seamlessly with roads.”

The plan has already been implemented in a number of countries, including Germany, Sweden and Australia.  If Johnson’s plans came to fruition, London would be one of few UK cities to embrace the ‘shared space’ idea. 

However, could this proposition be a realistic propsect, not just for London, but for other significant British cities? 

The residents of Edinburgh will likely wonder whether ‘naked streets’ could be applied to their city centre. Enthusaists maintain that the tram system - once it is eventually in place – could help towards creating an urban environment ideally suited to the shared space concept.  In a number of circumstances, such a project could be advantageous, for example, there could be a place for the reduction in the number of road markings in residential areas.  Similarly, there could be potential in trialling a ‘naked streets’ approach to the city’s main high streets in order to reduce road furniture - worth pursuing to monitor the response to such an approach, all considering, of course, the reaction if the scheme were to go ahead in London.  

Not everyone is as enthusiastic as Boris Johnson about  It could be the case that those who support the idea of shared space - particularly in Edinburgh, where the idea is yet to even be proposed –  are getting ahead of themselves.  A spokesperson for Edinburgh City Council was more realistic about the need for ‘naked streets’:

“For the foreseeable future, there remains a role for signs, lines and road humps.  Signs and lines are key to managing parking, prioritisiroadsignng public transport and cycling; road humps have an outstandingly good record in reducing speeds and therefore accidents.  Thought there may be limited scope for removing traffic lights, they are key to managing traffic at our busiest junctions and to providing places where people can cross busy roads with more confidence.”  

Yet, as much as signs, lines and roadhumps play a part in the reduction of accidents, the actualisation of shared space in Holland has proven to have positive results in this respect.  The town of Drachten – one of the scheme’s pioneer towns – has no visible road markings, stop signs or directions.  Parking meters are also absent from road sides.  When traffic lights were removed from the town’s main junction, the number of accidents dropped from thirty to two over a period of six years.  This junction sees 22 000 cars each days and traffic jams are a rarity.

It has to be acknowledged that the towns in which shared space has been implemented tend towards less heavily urbanised areas.  Furthermore, the large number of cyclists on Dutch streets would benefit the ‘naked streets’ as their presence acts to slow and calm traffic – an advantage for the shared space approach.  The legal framework is also different and should be considered; in Holland it is the driver who is presumed at fault in any crash between a vehicle and a pedestrian or cyclist, so it has to be assumed that safer driving thrives in Hollondontraffic2land regardless of the shared space scheme.

Statistics are something that Johnson should also take into account.  There are 8 000 buses in London, 32 000 black cabs and 34 000 licensed mini cabs.  According to the London Road Safety Unit Fact Sheet, while the number of traffic accidents has decreased by more than 10 000 over the past decade, the number of people injured on the road each year remains very high at over 24 000.  By putting the ‘shared space’ plan into action, it could be that this number could fall further.

Fundamentally, this is what the plan wishes to generate – regardless of the city or region or mayor.  By allowing road users to take control of the streets for themselves, they are trusted to grow accustomed to communicating more with each other, ultimately creating an environment in which not only both parties feel safe to travel, but - through a reduction in accident – whose safeness can be proven.

Two more tram lines travelling our way?

By Sarah Hunter-Argyle

A second Edinburgh tram line may be saved after city transport leaders delayed making a final decision on the scheme. They now have four months to find £50 million in funding.

The Haymarket-Granton line could go ahead if the Scottish Government says the council can borrow against tax revenues expected to be made on the waterfront.

Councillors will argue next week that the new route could help the rejuvenation of waterfront.

Jenny Dawe, the leader of Edinburgh Council, said: “We will keep pressing for the line from Haymarket to Granton, which would be a catalyst for further regeneration, and the much-wanted tram serving the south-east of the city.”

The council also want to install a third tram line which would run from the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, and some Edinburgh University sites, to the city centre.

The current work on the first tram line has led to huge amounts of road works and criticism from some parts of the city. Leith Walk has suffered major disruptions and many local businesses there still carry signs saying: “Tramworks Edinburgh: Ripping the Heart out of Local Business”.

Trams on Track?

By Joanne Ogilvie
Despite recent speculation, officials have this week confirmed that the tram network currently under construction in the capital is indeed going ahead.

Edinburgh City Council Representatives have been under fire in the last few weeks, as rumours that the tram network; provisions for which have been taking place for months- has been neglected, because of lack of funds. The council have been particularly withdrawn in making comment to neither the press nor the public whilst a final decision on the matter was being disputed.

The £545 million project is expected to improve congestion on the streets of Edinburgh, and most importantly, create a main line between the city centre and Edinburgh Airport. Public speculation arose when it was found that the airport depot had not even been started, despite completion being due in a few weeks time. It was also revealed that the operation is currently £47 million under budget.

Work began on the 1st September 2008 at the Princes Street junction between Hanover Street and The Mound on October 1st, and is expected to commence for a further 4- 6 weeks yet. Work on the track running between Lothian Road and Princes Street was set to be complete at the end of November and the loose ends of the job are currently being tied together.

A representative for TramTime Scotland, yesterday cleared confusion, by saying:

“The tram from Newhaven to the airport (phase 1a) is going ahead as planned, but it has been decided that the second route (1b) from Granton to Haymarket will be put on ice until further funding is found.”

Section 1(a) is set to be completed 2009, with the final network to find completion in 2011. Edinburgh City Council told Edinburgh Napier News that in the Spring/ Summer 2009- a dummy train is being tested in an attempt to win round Edinburgh citizens that the tramline is going to benefit them. Spanish Company CAF is building Edinburgh’s 27 trams for the council. At 40m long and 5 tonnes in weight, Edinburgh’s trams will be able to carry 250 passengers at once, and there will be 12 trams every hour, and one every five minutes at peak times.

Work on St. Andrews Square is presently underway, but is taking a brief suspension to aid the Christmas embargo- this should be completed in January 2009.

Rob Winter, spokesperson for the Princes Street association, this week spoke with hope and anticipation when he told an Edinburgh paper:

“Princes Street is quite a magical place at Christmas. With the view of the castle and the winter wonderland, it really is photogenic and the full Christmas experience.”

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