Landmark gets marching orders for tram work

IT is a landmark that has taken pride of place at the top of Leith Walk for more than 40 years.

But Leithers heading into the city will have to find a new way of checking the time when the iconic Victorian timepiece is removed this week.

Dating from 1857, the clock was previously located in the West End, outside what is now Fraser's department store.

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But it was moved to the top of Leith Walk at the junction of London Road in the early 1960s, and has given thousands a time check on their way into the city centre ever since.

Now it is on its travels again due to the creation of the city's new 498 million tram line.

The Newhaven to airport route will see the roundabout removed and replaced by a traffic-light controlled T-junction.

The clock is set to be taken away by tram workers and put into storage for the next few years while work on the line gets under way.

The clock, which was built by the Shotts Iron Company, will be refurbished and put back in the area when the tram line is complete, though council chiefs have still to decide on its exact location.

Willie Gallagher, chairman of TIE, which is running the trams project, said: "The London Street junction is being altered to accommodate the tram line, so we've been working with the council and its clock experts to move this iconic timepiece safely.

"It is important that these historic items are maintained and continue to play a role in the life of the Capital."

Moving the clock is one of a number of changes needed for the city's new tram line.

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The famous Sherlock Holmes statue on Picardy Place will be another of the city's precious artifacts to be moved, this time to make way for a new tram and bus interchange.

Leith Walk's bronze pigeons will also have to make way for the tram line.

Leith historian John Arthur said: "I think a lot of people would have been wondering what was going to happen to the clock when the trams come.

"It is in a fantastic location and I am glad that they are making sure that it is looked after properly during the roadworks, because if you don't look after these things then you will lose them."

The entire programme of tram roadworks will take more than three years to complete.

The project involves digging up the roads twice - first to move water mains and gas pipes from the path of the trams, then to lay the tram lines, install stops and erect overhead wires.

Work to dig up Princes Street began last week but will be suspended for the Christmas and New Year period.

It is expected that the start of the worst of disruption will hit the city in February next year.

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Councillor Phil Wheeler, the city's transport leader, said: "The clock is a much-loved focal point for Edinburgh folk, and plays an important role in charting the history of the trams of a bygone era.

"We'll take this opportunity to give the clock a check-up and ensure it's in good working order before placing it in the best position along the tram route so it will be there to keep time for tram passengers for many years to come."

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