Skip directly to content

Add new comment

WE said...they said...this happened

on Wed, 07/06/2016 - 00:36

One thing about just keeping on, keeping on , for long enough is that eventually things that begin as predictions eventually become facts.

In respect of the Tram project in Edinburgh since we started our attempt to get the Council to listen,it went from much delayed vanity project to hastily finished reality.

The passenger number projections which fell throughout it's planning and building were eventually revised down to such a low level they ended up embedding an operating loss, and created such a low bar that a small trench had to be created to lay it in.

Not even our Council could fail to clear it and they duly did, trumpeting they had beaten the target and all was now well.




We said (it's elsewhere on this site) a while back the Tram would cost the City somewhere around £20M a year in the charges.

These are charges that no-one had expected to pay.

No-one had expected to pay them because no-one expected the City to have to borrow £276Million to finish the line.

The original amount Edinburgh was expected to pay was £20M in total!





The removal of the tenament light service is one practical everyday effect of the costs of the tram project on the City budget.

The often pitiful state of public rubbish and litter management is another.

All too often we see windblown litter and even food waste becoming an ever-present feature of  city centre urban spaces, and residential streets. Litter bins stuffed to capacity with litter spilling out around them, speak of a council desperate to save every penny they can.

On the other side of the balance sheet every shrewd developer with an eye to maximising profit is bombarding the council with low cost, low value proposals that should have no place in a city whose future depends on sustaining the built environment that gained it World Heritage site status.

Instead of being told where to go they're given prime city sites and told to crack on.

Even when their own planning dept advise turning down a scheme cash-desperate councillors are waving it through.


It all speaks to the reality of a council labouring under desperate pressure on its finances.



A year or two back the Council mounted a big Publicity campaign to highlight the sad news they desperately needed to save £20 million a year for three years in emergency budget cuts  ...a figure not unadjacent to the £20 Million a year we said the tram financing charges would  cost every year for decades to come.

Although the council initially denied our figures and for a number of years accused us of *troublemaking* (again) they have  recently started to admit and include the finance charges of the unbudgeted £276M in the costs of the project; which took it well over £1Billion...and counting

And that £20M (a year)  they need to save is identical to the £20M (a year) they overpaid for the Tram.... fancy that!



We also said that while the very centre of the city would see far better air quality , huge areas (the majority) of the city outside the centre would see worsening traffic and pollution.

WE said that because we saw how in the plan the old historic routes, with their wide streets, through largely commercial areas would have to be cleansed of vehicles to accomodate the tram line (and because no significant enhancement of roads elsewhere was planned) then traffic would grow in neighbourhoods across the city as new routes were sought..

And because of there being less road space, then even in normal times traffic would be worse in areas  outside the core centre ,and on the (frequent) occasions when any repair work to a route was being done it would more likely than not get horribly worse.

I can leave anyone reading this to be the judge of whether getting into and out of the city, or across it from side to side out-with the central area is now worse, or better than it used to be.

(Horribly bad standing and crawling traffic creates more pollution.. it creates rat running by drivers frustrated by increasing delays and these, along with other factors, are why pollution rises even if traffic levels remain the same.)




Finally...we have consistently said that poor air quality is not just *another thing* that has to be put up with in order to get some vague, but greater benefits from a tram project in years to come..  

Air quality is one of the very greatest threats to health and even life in our modern world.


By the way, the projections mentioned already didn't see the whole city getting worse at minute one; day one of the Tram starting, but that it would start then but worsen over 16 years..the timeframe of the report.

Already the tram seems to have been running for ages but where the bad effects are concerned the fact is they are going to keep on coming for years, and even decades. 

The Council have taken a different view from the one we put to them about air pollution

Our group can recall very well, on more than one occasion, being told we were blowing this problem of air pollution out of proportion just to create trouble.

And we remember senior executives as well as elected representatives saying they would not release facts and figures about air quality measurements because in the Council's view we would only use them to *create trouble.*.

(We pointed out that as these were Council figures they were not the personal property of the senior executives but the property of everyone in the city--that cut no ice until after a long fight that led ultimately to a couple of our group pleading the case before the Arhuus Convention Complaints Commission of the United Nations in Geneva....Really!!.

(See the videos on the home page --- Newsnight did a bit on it)

At which point, under pressure from comments in a ruling by the ACCC, the council grudgingly accepted data collected by them wasn't *their data* it was *everbody's data*, and massaging the figures to support pre-agreed policy,and suppress public debate and criticism, wasn't *Public Service* it was a public disservice.




All of which has led to a bizarre situation in our council today.



Because of the acceptance across the world, of what we were saying to them as far back as 2008 about air pollution, they now pursue, simultaneously, a hand wringing on pollution and its effects in public, with pious assurances of the desperate need for action.  

While at the same time remaining determined never to admit openly what they were told in 2003.... that the pollution in the city is worse with a tram (specifically as designed) than had it never been built.

And we'd be £20M a year better off.

And we'd maybe even still have the possibility of building a better, more efficient and certainly less pollution-creating, light rail, public transport system.

But we haven't got that possibility.

Instead we will see the continuing schizophnrenic state of denial as the council work to build more tram, for no other reason than we have already spent (or wasted) so much capital..both in cash and in the form of so many political, executive and managerial careers inside the council.

And create more pollution in streets where people live.

While at the same time reading in the local paper and the council's own publications about how very concerned they are about air pollution...and getting value for money.