Wednesday, 5 November 2008
Trams may be admired in Amsterdam but at the installation stage it’s just chaos. This post is from Nicola Baird.
Edinburgh’s transport chief, Neil Renilson, is to take early retirement at the end of this year (2008). At just 52 you could see this as an exciting move for a bearded man who’s worked on the buses for a lifetime. Here’s his chance to do other things close to his heart: golf? Walking? Time with his family? Etcetera.
But like Renilson’s decision to back the tram, his news has not been met with enthusiasm. People are furious that Edinburgh is currently a miasma of alternative routes, traffic cones and white-hatted, drill-wielding workers digging up all the grand streets.
“I’m sorry you’re seeing Edinburgh looking such a mess,” was the first thing our taxi driver said to us as we got off the sleeper train at a distinctly chilly Waverley Station.
In London someone’s always digging up the roads – usually to sort out Victorian drains or water pipes. Or to lay cables. Or just for the end of the budget year hell of it. So diversions seem normal. But it is true that Edinburgh is not looking herself. The imposing grey stone parades are cluttered with orange and white cones, ticker tape and steel cage fencing that looks like it ought to be in use down at the zoo.
"It's a disaster. I never go in town now," was Maureen's opinion as she served us fudge from HMY Britannia down at Ocean Terminal.
I’m all for trams. I enjoyed watching the progress at Nottingham, have long admired the Amsterdam routes and think Edinburgh a real leader. They had the first car club (see pic above of one of the vehicles parked in a bank of four just off the Royal Mile. And now they’re using the tram to future proof the city against the oil price shocks that will rock all conurbations once peak oil passes. Trams are powered by electricity which can be generated from renewable sources.
Tram building is disruptive, easy to criticise and the schedule is slipping. It was due to open in Feb 2011 but is more likely to start in July 2011 (just before the festival) which looks set to add to the £512 million bill. My hunch is that Renilson expected to be the fall guy. So when we come back in three years time to be whizzed around by a tram that could finally sort out gridlock and make a Georgian city a carbon neutral place to travel around again I’ll be raising my whisky glass to him. Cheers.