IT IS great to see the trams finally on Edinburgh’s streets not just because it brings to an end the disruption to people and businesses, but also because it opens a new chapter for the city for the first time in decades. With the tram, Edinburgh is staking its claim to be a world-class, 21st century city.
It is too easy to recite a litany of costs and challenges; perhaps harder to see that this could be a game-changing moment, but only if the council, business and other stakeholders collectively choose to capitalise on it.
Whether or not this turns out to be part of a broader strategic vision, there will still be winners with communities situated moments from the line benefiting from both private and public investment. The big question is how quickly and boldly we move to expand the network for the benefit of the whole city.
This may be held back by the fear factor as residents and businesses who have already suffered the effects of construction work on the first line contemplate the prospect of more disruption.
However, stopping here would mean foregoing the real gains that should be the prize from the pain of recent years; increased property prices and transport options, and far more flexibility to regenerate areas where development has stalled.
Cities know that networks, not single lines, are the answer. Just take a look at some of England’s highly competitive regional cities such as Nottingham; or Dublin which has kept going with its tram expansion despite the huge financial challenges faced by Ireland in recent years.
Winning cities will be those who show determination and persistence to see the vision through.
Head of Energy
Cleantech & Sustainability
Grant Thornton UK LLP