Rush-hour gridlock looms as trams work seals off key route into capital

Construction is not moving fast enough for some businesses. Picture: Jayne Wright
Construction is not moving fast enough for some businesses. Picture: Jayne Wright
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COMMUTERS in the Scottish capital face more disruption during today’s rush hour as the latest series of road diversions for Edinburgh’s tram works takes effect.

A number of alterations has been made in the capital’s West End to allow for the works to be extended into West Maitland Street, a key bus route and an artery taking traffic into the city centre from Haymarket station.

The diversions brought tailbacks when they were introduced on Saturday, but it will be today’s morning rush hour which will bring the real test.

Works at Shandwick Place and Haymarket are being extended into West Maitland Street following what the city council said was “in-depth” planning in co-operation with contractors.

Residents and businesses have been kept updated with a series of briefings, the council said.

But traders have warned that some small businesses may not survive the latest round of works.

Michael Apter, chairman of the West End Association, said: “People’s businesses are in the balance here. There are probably four or five which have closed since the start of the year and there will be more before this work is finished. Economic circumstances are undoubtedly difficult at the moment, but when you add the tram works to that, it is completely toxic for many businesses.”

Councillor Lesley Hinds, Labour’s transport spokeswoman, said constant traffic changes were causing confusion among the city’s drivers.

She said: “One of our concerns is that they change things by bringing in these diversions and then a month later they change them again just as people begin to get used to them.

“The communication about the changes has also been so, so poor. I’m not particularly looking forward to Monday morning’s commute.”

Dave Anderson, the council’s director of city development, said work on the tram project was now taking place along the length of the tram route.

“The latest move to expand the site into West Maitland Street will give contractors access to the most flexible possible space, allowing tram work to be completed in the fastest possible time,” he said.

“We have committed £175,000 towards initiatives to attract people to the west end and will be rolling these out in the coming months. In the meantime, we would like to encourage people to visit the area as all businesses are open and operating as normal.”

He added: “We appreciate the continued support of the public and are confident the latest set of diversions will bed in quickly as work gets under way on this latest phase of tram works.”

Originally due for completion in 2011, the tram project is now expected to be finished by the summer of 2014.

The original line, costing £512 million, was to run from Edinburgh Airport to Newhaven.

The capital will end up with a truncated and over-budget route which runs only as far as St Andrew Square in the city centre.