A city centre tram loop would be built in the heart of Edinburgh under the biggest proposed transport overhaul of the Scottish capital in living memory.
The radical ten-year city centre transformation project includes plans for prominent Old Town streets to be completely closed to traffic.
READ MORE: Car-free plaza plans for Waverley Bridge
A long-term ambition to extend the tram route over North Bridge to the BioQuarter and Edinburgh Royal Infirmary is also part of the highly ambitious strategy to “create a city centre that truly puts people first”.
A city centre tram loop could also be constructed, which would connect Haymarket with Morrison Street, Lauriston Place, Potterrow and Edinburgh University.
The proposal comes with works due to start this month on the 2.9-mile tramline extension down Leith Walk to Newhaven following confirmation the controversial project’s cost had grown to £207 million.
Under its latest plans, the council hopes to reduce city centre traffic by up to 30 per cent by treating cars as “guests” in a “pedestrian priority zone”. Busy routes in the Old Town would be shut to traffic, including Victoria Street, Cockburn Street and a longer stretch of the Royal Mile. Waverley Bridge could become a vehicle-free plaza, while a “centrepiece” bridge could be built for pedestrians and cyclists, connecting the Old Town and the New Town.
Car parking would be gradually reduced across the city centre, with George Street, Victoria Street and Cockburn Street losing parking space altogether.
There are also plans for remaining parking areas to be subject to a trial of a “parking free day” – where existing spaces are set aside for alternative uses such as street events one day per week. A free hopper bus would take people around the city centre.
The proposals will go out for a public consultation for approval, subject to the thumbs up by the council’s transport and environment committee next week.
Transport and environment convener Councillor Lesley Macinnes said: “This is a serious approach to how we equip the city for the future and how we meet the emerging challenges from the climate change emergency, population growth, changing expectations of our city centre and air quality.
“This is a clear statement of intent about what we want to achieve in the city centre.”
As part of the blueprint, there are plans to construct four lifts, situated across the city centre, to help people access Edinburgh’s two levels with more ease.
The lifts would be provided from Market Street to the top of The Mound, Waverley Station to North Bridge, Cowgate to George IV Bridge and the Grassmarket to Edinburgh Castle. They could be used by cyclists and those with wheelchairs.
Ms Macinnes said: “You will come out the back of Waverley Station and take that lift up to North Bridge. Instantly, you have got public transport with buses instantly connected with the train. It’s about collapsing the city centre to be able to access both levels.”
Permission would need to be approved from the Scottish Government before proposing to take the tram over North Bridge towards Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and the BioQuarter.
Indicative images show that tram stops could be provided at the university, Newington, the Chalmers Hospital and the EICC.
The strategy document states: “A potential tram loop around the city centre, in association with further expansion of the network, will provide fast, reliable and high capacity access to the city centre on appropriate radial routes.”
The existing timeline points to a business case being drawn up for the tram extension between 2024 and 2026.
Key bus routes would remain across North Bridge and South Bridge and up and down The Mound. Ms Macinnes said: “The proposals are designed to prompt debate – they aren’t finalised designs or ideas. They are examples of what we could do to deliver the city centre that residents are telling us they want.”