Tram row goes international

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EDINBURGH's troubled trams project has picked up two more high-profile critics - the United States' and France's representatives in Scotland are the latest voices to raised objections to the scheme's controversial traffic management proposals.

Campaigners against plans to stop traffic turning right into Blenheim Place from London Road say the consul generals of both countries are among those who have signed a petition calling for the idea to be scrapped.

Tram bosses plan to ban right turns into the street as part of a city-wide series of traffic management measures due to be brought in once the trams are up and running, but local businesses and residents say the move will leave historic streets such as Blenheim Place and Royal Terrace feeling like a "gated community."

Nearby Regent Terrace, which is home to the US consulate, has been closed to traffic since the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001. Now hundreds of local residents and businesses have objected to plans to ban right turns into Blenheim Place, a move they say would cut off one of the few remaining access points to the streets above London Road.

They have also commissioned a professional transport study which recommends the council and tram firm TIE look again at the proposal.

Among those supporting the campaign is chef Paul Kitching, who opened Restaurant 21212 in Royal Terrace last year.

He said: "They are continually opening and closing this road - there's no rhyme or reason to it. It's not about business - it's about keeping a beautiful street beautiful, and closing it off defies logic."

Last week, residents of the New Town succeeded in getting the council to agree to look at temporarily re-opening Shandwick Place to all vehicles after complaints about the level of traffic using residential streets.

Both issues are set to be discussed at the council's transport committee in September.

Tory MSP Gavin Brown, who has been helping to represent the local residents, said: "The residents have gathered very strong local support against the proposals, as well as a compelling technical engineering report. The report suggests that a solution which allows a right turn in from London Road could be achieved. I believe TIE and the council should give serious consideration to the report."

The council said it was planning on making the content of its report public in advance of the September meeting to allow local residents to see the final proposals.It said that there had also been a good level of support for the Blenheim Place proposals, but that this was not reflected in the statutory process.

A spokeswoman for TIE said: "All the submissions to the TRO (Traffic Regulation Order) process have been analysed and a report will go before the transport committee in September."