City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh Trams - A Blight on Business

By actionman - Posted on 29 April 2012

Sources say that Edinburgh City Council are going to make available some £5,000,000 for businesses which have suffered financial losses as a result of the ongoing disastrous tram project.  The trams have been a blight on commerce in the city and the project  is running some five years late, wildly over budget.

All this has subjected traders in the city to untold disruption and the effect on businesses has been catastrophic. The offer from the Council is for a twenty percent discount on business rates, but limited to those directly on the construction site who can also prove they have lost money.   This is a start, but the Council needs to appreciate that the tram project has had the same stifling effect right across all areas of the city - what about the traders in Leith Walk, Lothian Road, Shandwick Place and Haymarket?   Everyone has been hit by the chaos of the tram works and the Council needs, through its independent assessor, to take all these cases and treat them sympathetically.

The tram project has indeed been a blight on business in the city and even stores like John Lewis have felt the pinch.  Harvey Nichols and the smart shops in Multrees Walk will undoubtedly also be affected even more as the works take place beside them.   It will take the city simply years to recover and as a reminder we will be saddled, for the next thirty years, with paying off the enormous loan that the Council have had to take out to get the line to St Andrew Square and York Place.  

All the current  promises and the constant stream of "positive messages" from the present administration are simply an attempt to save face before the Local Authority elections on 3 May.   But the electorate will not be taken in and those who have pushed and supported what has proved to be the most chaotic Local Authority project in Scotland, can expect to pay the price by being kicked out of office.

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.  The particularly pernicious effect of just continuing to 'push on' with the tram are that it is a multiplier of bad effects in a situation that is already extremely difficult.

Global economic instabilities have had us in or near recession for over 4 years and there is the constant threat of worse.  The internet and digitalisation of information, and the disintermediation processes that has produced, is another enormous change agent whose effects are only just beginning.

Cities are not ordained from on high as worthy, successful or vibrant, and as with brands (as these are so often invoked by planners) decisons taken make a difference to their prospects. Cities where bad decisions are taken fall, while cities in which intelligent decisons are taken rise.

Never more so than today when the pace of change is so rapid and the margin of error so small.

In the past complacent and poorly functioning councils could bumble along for decades, with access to cheap money from various sources to 'put right' bad decisons and the pace of change of fortunes relatively slow. Both those supports have been kicked away in todays world.

The tram project is a poorly designed and conceived one and the decison to go ahead was a bad one, the continual decisons to push on are worse ones.  This £5 Million will not be the last of the bad news, more will follow and the culmulative effects will be that the city is permanently worse off as a result, as the physical and reputational effects of the failure to think continue to accumulate.


Things will not just 'come right afterwards' they need to to be put right.