Nathan Goode: Trams just start for sustainable city

Edinburgh's tram project has been well publicised. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Edinburgh's tram project has been well publicised. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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We’ve all read the stories and watched in horror as the costs have rocketed and the completion date has been repeatedly rolled back, but now is the time for businesses and citizens of Edinburgh to back the much-maligned tram project.

As a capital city, Edinburgh has – until now – failed to deliver European standards of infrastructure. Yet with a world-class, low-carbon transport system we can aspire to more.

In Edinburgh, I have witnessed the blossoming of the city’s new green industry. The Green Investment Bank and the rebirth of the waterfront as the new home for the renewables sector have shown that Edinburgh is looking forward to a future that is both business-friendly and sustainable.

The transport system which accompanies this brave new future should share those same principles. With only one line, from Edinburgh Airport to York Place, expansion is essential to avoid the scheme becoming a stranded asset.

Other cities, such as Montpelier, had the vision to create vast tramways from scratch. The southern French city now boasts four lines and almost 40 miles of track; 282,000 passengers use the service every day and a fifth line is currently being constructed.

As a city we need to look long term at our tram system. While we cannot ignore the challenges, the opportunities are clear. Communities situated moments from the line could become “investment nodes” – benefiting from both private and public assistance, spurred on by the creation of a 21st-century transport policy.

The benefits are both general and public. Residents who, for so long, have suffered the effects of construction work will see their property prices and transport options increase, while the council will have far more flexibility to regenerate areas long forgotten and neglected.

I firmly believe Edinburgh has an opportunity to become a world leader in sustainability, but this can only be achieved if everyone supports a vision for a sustainable and effective transport infrastructure.

• Nathan Goode is head of energy, environment & sustainability at Grant Thornton.