Road closed… but Edinburgh still open

BUSINESS leaders in Edinburgh last night urged people to continue shopping in the capital over the next ten months – despite the prospect of huge disruption from major tramworks along the length of Princes Street.

Retailers are braced for the impact of work to close the main thoroughfare, which will get under way in the early hours of Saturday.

Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce is pleading with shoppers not to shun the city centre over the next few months, insisting that people should not notice much of a difference in how long it will take to travel around the capital.

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Although transport officials are not expecting the first major test of a host of diversions to arrive until the Monday morning rush-hour, all buses which normally use Princes Street will be rerouted on to George Street from Saturday. Motorists will be diverted on to Queen Street.

Diversions will be kept in place until the end of November, with work expected to continue during the Festival period, despite the impact it may have on major events.

Transport officials, who have spent more than a year planning for the closure of Princes Street, insist that the diversions and road closures that will be put in place have been planned "meticulously". However, insiders at the council and the tram firm Tie say officials charged with keeping traffic in the city running smoothly are nervous about the impact of the full closure on Monday morning.

One source said: "This is all being introduced at the weekend to give things a chance to bed in and sort out any technical problems with traffic lights and how buses are moving along George Street.

"But it's not going to be tested out properly until Monday's traffic starts. One lane of Princes Street is being kept open so it can be used in the event of chaos."

Ron Hewitt, the chief executive of the chamber, said: "Our main message is to tell people that the city centre is very much open for business. At a time like this, it is very important that we all work together and people support their local shops.

"We accept the impact of this work may be difficult for business, but it has to come to Princes Street eventually.

"However, there has been tramworks ongoing in the city centre for some time now, and we don't really think people will notice that much difference."

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David Mackay, the chairman of Tie, said: "The work on Princes Street is a pivotal moment for the project and will see the first tangible aspects of the trams appearing.

"The track-laying and accompanying diversions have been planned meticulously, with speed and safety paramount."

A spokesman for Lothian Buses said it was confident that everything possible had been done to minimise disruption to passengers.

Travellers will pay more to get to airport

PASSENGERS using Edinburgh's controversial trams will be forced to pay a premium fare to travel to Edinburgh Airport, it has emerged.

The hike will come despite previous claims that tram fares would be the same as bus tickets in the capital.

Airport passengers were expected to be one of the main users of the tram and the first phase of the city's "network" will only consist of one line, linking it with the city centre and Leith.

Although all weekly, monthly and annual "ridacard" passes issued by Lothian Buses – the capital's main bus operator – will be valid on the tram, passengers heading to the airport and using trams will have to stump up an extra fare.

Single fares on Lothian Buses services are 1.20, but it costs 3.50 to use any of the premium shuttle bus services to the airport.

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The move means anyone boarding a tram on Princes Street or Leith and heading to the airport will have to buy a premium-rate ticket or risk a fine.

Passengers will have to buy tickets from roadside machines before boarding the trams, with inspectors due to travel on all services.

A spokesman for Lothian Buses said yesterday: "Journeys to and from the airport will be treated the same as the current 'Airlink' services from the city centre."