Transports of Delight (not)

May 22nd, 2009

Transport in Britain is awful. Transport in Edinburgh is approaching catastrophic.

A few months ago I decided to buy a car, something I hadn’t had since 2002. I had resisted this for a long time as I knew the Edinburgh traffic would make for a frustrating commute, and I enjoyed the mile walk across country from the railway station to my current place of work, but after three train cancellations in 10 days including being stranded in Uphall in freezing conditions by a complete shutdown of the line and being left without any information on alternatives, I decided enough was enough and a car was duly purchased.

Now of course this was the worst possible time to switch to road transport as Edinburgh is currently in the throws of traffic chaos with much of the city streets being dug up for the purpose of moving utilities to allow tram lines to be put in.

Now initially I was quite favourably disposed to the idea of a tram system. I am generally in favour of both trains and trams as efficient, fast, and clean methods of transport, having had positive experiences of trains in Switzerland, Austria and Germany, and of trams in cities like Amsterdam and Innsbruck. It’s just that in this country we seem to be completely incapable of running them – they are habitually late, often cancelled and hideously expensive.

If we were getting a real tram network in Edinburgh it might just be worth the current upheaval and disruption; but we’re not. Now that the Roseburn to Granton spur (which should have been cheaper since it ran on a former railway line) has been cancelled due to lack of money, we’re getting a single line. A line that won’t even be useful to most people. It won’t even go all the way to the airport – it’ll stop at a park and ride carpark where travellers will have to switch to a bus – and it will have only one stop in the whole length of Princes Street. Now we hear that some genius in the council has said that since the “diversions” have been so successful they now want to keep Princes St (currently completely dug up and fenced off for the forseeable future) not only free from cars but free from buses as well!!

Ignoring for the moment the incredible idea that having a city reduced to gridlock with the massive increase in pollution and fuel consumption and the loss of working time for our commercial centres could possibly be described as successful, the idea that buses should not be allowed to use the main street in the capital city (and incidentally one of the very few east-west corridors across the city centre) is staggeringly stupid. What do we tell tourists who want to visit attractions in the city centre?

‘No the buses don’t run to there any more and the trams are only an option if you are staying along the Glasgow Road cos they don’t go anywhere else in the city, and even then they only stop in one place along Europe’s most scenic street of over a mile in length.’

They’ll think we’re mad.

And the locals? Well the journey times will all be permanently slower because all the buses will have to take a tortuous route around to Queen Street which is where all the other traffic is as well.

But hey, half the shops in the city centre have closed down because of the tram-related road works in the last two years already, so why would anyone want to go into the city centre? The shopping has been crap for years and most people go to out-of-town centres, Livingston or even Glasgow to shop. And given the planning disasters that the council have perpetrated recently we’ll probably lose our world heritage status anyway so there’ll be fewer tourists. Hmm, why were we putting in trams again?

Listen up council. I’ve lived virtually all of my life in Edinburgh and I’ve always loved it. But if I were 21 again now I’d move somewhere else because you’re making it a nightmare.

Entry Filed under: Edinburgh,Scottish,Social/Political

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