Terry Murden: Battle lines drawn over trams

Councillor Frank Ross. Picture: TSPL
Councillor Frank Ross. Picture: TSPL
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MY interview with councillor Frank Ross of Edinburgh City Council, in which he said extending the city’s tram was a “no brainer”, certainly caught some attention and added further division to an already existing chasm on the subject.

His view was little different to my own. As I stated here last week, without a proper network most of the city will feel excluded from the “Edinburgh” tram, which some continue to regard as a costly exercise in building a fun-ride to the airport.

Everyone accepts that building this single line was hugely over-budget and caused considerable distress, not least to those businesses that were forced to close because of the building work.

But we are where we are. As Ross said, lessons have been learned and we must hope these include proper budgeting and building control. Whether a supporter or a naysayer, the public rightly remains outraged that there has been no inquiry.

It has to be said that tram systems have caused problems wherever they have been built, mainly because of the cost, the disruption and concerns about whether they would be used. They have been over-budget and overdue, and in the early days of the Sheffield tram the residents reverted to buses as the best and cheapest way of getting around the city. But in most cases the public have learned to love them.

Edinburgh council will have been relieved and encouraged by the turnout for yesterday’s launch of scheduled services. Even some of the doubters and complainers must have been among those buying a ticket.

The city now needs to get used to the tram. Just as importantly, the council needs the public to build sufficient confidence in it that they demand more routes – as they have elsewhere. That is a big step in winning the public relations battle that will be key to what happens next. «

Twitter: @TerryMurden1