City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Tram's Going to St Andrew Square... No, Haymarket... No, St Andrew Square!

By edg - Posted on 31 August 2011

Edinburgh Trams Arriving 2011

Residents of Edinburgh wont know whether to laugh or cry at the latest news that Edinburgh's trams are back on track to run along the curtailed route from Edinburgh Airport to St Andrew Square.

Since 30 June we have now done a complete 360º turn. We've been to St Andrew Square (30 June decision), to Haymarket (25 August decision), and now back again to St Andrew Square.

In the latest bend in the tram track, anti-tram SNP councillors have decided to support building the tramline to St Andrew Square. The decision comes after the Scottish government said it would withhold some £72 million funding if the line stopped at Haymarket.

Labour Group leader Councillor Andrew Burns has also said that his party may now support the St Andrew Square option, although he is reserving judgement until he sees the council report.

This reversal would come after Labour and Conservative councillors joined forces at last week's meeting to win a vote for building the tram to Haymarket. They argued that it was a "sensible option" given that continuing to build into the city centre would saddle the city with a 30 year debt of £231 million (£15.3m per year).

But, as they say, a week is a long time in politics. The decision to stop at Haymarket was greeted with howls of protest, particularly after the months of road closures so that track could be laid on Princes Street. The chief executive of the Edinburgh Chambers of Commerce called the decision  "bonkers". Crucially, the Scottish Government chose to withdraw its support.   And Bilfinger Berger have also given the council until Friday to make a decision else judge it in breach of contract and liable for a £161 million charge.

SNP leader Cllr Cardownie told the Evening News that the party's decision is "the best chance to repair the damage to Edinburgh and Scotland's reputation." This is the same party that wanted a referendum on the trams not long ago.

So it's almost certain that Friday's emergency meeting will see the decision to stop at Haymarket thrown out and St Andrew Square re-instated.

Just as well we don't ask politicians to drive buses. We'd end up way short of the destination and the bus driver would plead fluctuating fuel prices and time spent in reassessing the destination based on "unforseen circumstances" for a massive ticket surcharge (to be decided on arrival).

In fact, by the time you got part way to your destination, you'd have been quicker to walk. After many changes at the wheel, it wouldn't be the same bus driver.

Or bus.

Or bus company.

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Yes, panto season has come early this year. 

Well, the official council report that will be presented at tomorrow morning's Emergency Meeting has been published and it (still) looks almost certain that St A Square is our Final Destination. The report recommends building to St Andrew Square. Of course, nothing is certain where the trams are concerned and even with tomorrow's vote looking like a fait accompli you never know what political shenanigans and jack-in-the-box type revelations there are to come.

This is the key line from the report:

"It is recommended that Council: (i) agrees that the option to build from the Airport to St Andrew Square/York Place as set out in the 30 June 2011 Council report be pursued"

Read the Council Report (PDF)