What does the proposed M1 Motorway speed limit tell us about Edinburgh?
The BBC and other media have been telling us that the government is proposing to set up a 60mph speed limit for a 32-mile stretch of the M1, in a bid to cut pollution.
This is because reducing the speed from 70mph to 60mph is expected to reduce the adverse effects of the traffic in respect of air quality.
In Edinburgh, in the Council chamber and the office at Waverley Court they don't read these stories, or ones like this other one on NHS Choices referring to a story in the Guardian.
They can't read them because otherwise what possible defence would they have for their consistent policiy over the last decade in respect of the Tram project.
The council knew as long ago as 2003 that as designed the Tram project would serve to INCREASE traffic pollution on the doorstep of 65% of the homes in the city.
Why this issue wasn't taken up, investigated, examined and publicised will have to remain a matter for speculation until we finally get the inexplicably delayed public inquiry we have been promised by the First Minister Alex Salmond, and virtually everyone else in authority.
It may have been that the Council felt gambling with the health of over half the city was justified because the prize would be their own arms length company TIE Ltd having the chance to bid to manage civil contracts worldwide, on the back of their glittering triumph in delivering the Tram project.
And after all: You can't make an omlette without breaking eggs.
But in the absence of a properly led Public Inquiry, who knows why a council would see a figure telling them 65% of all homes in the city would experience worse air pollution by building the tram system...and yet not just go ahead with the scheme, and without ever mentioning this fact in any message to the public, but go ahead proclaiming, as if without a doubt in the world, the scheme's basically non-existent Green credentials.
People inside the council who privately blame 'the traffic' for this and not the tram (although publically there has been no admittance of the issue existing whatsoever) have been heard by us, to crow that 'you'll back the congestion scheme now, then!'
Maybe to people who have ignored the problem for ten years in a state of total denial, and indeed even potentially of cover up, it isn't a problem. But rather an opportunity, to try again with a policy decisively rejected in the early years of this century and dust down the congestion scheme again---after all the motto of the Council 'Nisi Dominus Frustra' meaning (perhaps ironically really) anything attempted without the Lord's help will be attempted in vain; seems to have become Si quam primum vos operor non successio in questus vestri via - Tendo Tendo Tendo iterum. 'If at first you don't succeed in getting your way-try, try, try again'
Politically taking that course may make sense to some within the council, setting up another straw bogey man to cover their tracks(!)---it's just a shame that scientifically it would be more arrogant nonsense tipped on the enormous spoil of heap of arrogant nonsense created by the project and built up over a decade. The scale of the problem now underway and created by the Council far exceeds any expected benefit of reducing traffic they projected originally in their own failed congestion charging scheme.
To 'right the wrong' and re-set the pollution, noise and general degreding effects on the lived experience created by displaced traffic left to rat run its way around now the main central routes are either closed or congested to the point of impassibility at certain times; the council would need a congestion charging scheme of such draconian efficiency the impacts on businesses and shops would be beyond contemplating.
And they know this of course, they just don't talk it about it.
The central point of failure, one never yet mentioned in the council's own press releases, currently on hyperdrive in an effort to convince the world that all is for the best in our permanently best of all possible worlds ahead of launch day, is that it is impossible to find anywhere else in the developed world a council or government that has created a project that reverses the century or more of transport planning devoted to separating traffic FROM domestic streets, homes and the people and families who live in them.
In Edinburgh the main historic cross city routes have in effect been closed, or enormously reduced, by the requirements of the project with no tangible plan to deal with the displaced traffic flows other than to have them find their own new ways across the city as best they can--which is where the 65% figure of households WORSE off in terms of air pollution came in in 2003.
The gamble back then may have been that it was a problem that could be ignored, but that assumption has been holed beneath the water line after crashing into the iceberg of the last decade worth of scientific research which, as with the emergence of the dangers of smoking, passive smoking and lead in petrol, is showing the problem to be one that is worse with each successive report, whether the reports originate in this country, Europe, China or the USA.
As the NHS Choices story linked to above shows, this is not an issue that is going to suddenly go away.
Our Council, long since disabused of their dreams for Project Management Revenue streams with the shambolic collapse into liquidation of Tie Ltd, remain paralysed to this day, in denial in the face of this issue, created by their own hubris, inepitude and arrogance a decade ago, that threatens effects, and costs, to come that could make even the £1Billion Plus spent on the single 'half' of a line finally completed look almost nothing by comparison.
The final cop out of an administration banrupt of ideas has been to point to the many other cities with trams all happily established and running--but in those cities, take Reims, who started the same year as Edinburgh and finished over a year ago-- nobody else decided to build in a way that reversed a century of accepted transport planning. They didn't block off their main routes before they had planned, consulted and built the solutions to displaced traffic.
Nobody else did it like Edinburgh and that's why nobody else is in the same mess.