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Recent releases

The UN remind CEC that the Workshops process is important

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Lelsey Hinds the Tram Trasina has said on a number of occasions recently that faceless officials should not be allowed to create policy especially because councillors, the elected representatives, abrogate their responsibilities in this area..

This release shows an example of how officers in effect created a policy of non-cooperation where the intention of councillors had been one of cooperation and consultation. 

A woeful document was produced that purported to be a report to councillors- in the Light of Councillor Hinds comments it may be time for it to be withdrawn and a properly consultative report produced---one, like the recent Aarhu Convention Compliance Committee that highlights the importance of the Workshops process, is produced with input from all sides--especially the people who did all the work in their spare time and evenings.

Confusion on Hope Street

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This release highlights a situation that shows why residents have become so cynical about Council pronouncements on the tram project, it's effects, and their committment to addressing these.

  • Hope Street can either be a possible escape valve for congested traffic, or it can have a tyraffic ban imposed upon it---but it cannot have both.

Not only did the UN's Aarhus commission, investigating, not Edinburgh Council's Tram; but Edinburgh Council's committment to openness in dealing with it's citizens, specifically mention this possible 'escape valve' role for Hope Street in their draft report--the Council did not 'correct' this understanding for the Final report either.

However the TRO dealing with the traffic ban WAS withdrawn from the agenda of the TI&E Council committee hastily and at the last minute when THAT discussion would have co-incided exactly with the release of the Final version of the Aarhus Convention Complaint Commission's Findings and Reccomendations.

  • Of course one cannot possibly say that this TRO was pulled in the way that it was, because Edinburgh Council suddenly realised that voting through an order to block a street, massively widen pavements, reduce it's capacity to carry any traffic volume, and specifically ban everything over 7.5 tonnes, would tend to throw into doubt, if not utterly contradict, the offer made to residents ---  and  given by CEC to the UK Government to use in their attempt to answer to a case brought before the Complaints Commission at the United Nations HQ in Geneva, that the Council do not deal plainly and openly with their own residents and voters.

ON the other hand....

Hope Street, To Be...or Not to Be

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The UN's Aarhus Convention Compliance Commission (ACCC) isn't really there to 'do detail' and second guess experts about their schemes and the plans, in order to make a judgement on whether this or that tram system is better or worse.

So when they mention a detail it is significant.

In their recent judgement they highlighted the offer made by Edinburgh to residents that Hope Street, which connects Queensferry Street and Charlotte Square, could work as an alternative route for traffic releiving pressure on the residential streets from the inc reases in traffic created by the demands of the tram plan for 'traffic cleansed' roadways for the track route.

Edinburgh Council mentioned this to the UK Government's lawyers, the Aarhus Convention being a government level agreement Councils don't directly answer a case there, government does; as evidence of their anxiety to properly enage and find mitigation solutions.

Something explicitly noted by the ACCC.

It is strange therefore that the Council had simultaneously made a different offer about the use of the street to the Developers presently working on a major redevelopment of Charlotte Square.

The aim of which was to reduce both the size of traffic able to use the street and the voiume of traffic of any size that in practice would be able or likely to use the street.

This 2nd offer, totally at odds with the one used in their defence at the ACCC hearing, required a Traffic Regulation Order TRO to enable the chnages and this was due to be debated at the Council's Transport, Infrastructure and Environment committee recently until it was hastily pulled after the publication of the meeting Agenda.

Whether sloppy drafting and corner cutting had led officers to fear the TRO could fail on legal grounds, or whether officers suddenly realised this debate would be taking place at exactly the same time as the release of the ACCC Findings and the conflict between the two offers could become unavoidable, is impossible to say.

Or perhaps there is a completely innocent explanation?

Aarhus decision received

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The UNECE Aarhus Convention people have produced their final 'Findings and Recommendations' document in respect of the communication brought to them by the two Edinburgh residents.
 
A first draft version, was distributed to all the parties involved to give a chance for comments and responses, and that last bit of the process is now over, the judgment will be formally ratified at the Compliance Committee's next formal meeting.
 
This press release highlights the key points..not least of which is a landmark decision concerning how any council and public authority will now have to make far more 'data' and statistical information available to people. 
 
 In addition to this main finding the UN committee do highlight some other points that are specific to Edinburgh and the particular details of the case; especially some assurances concerning Hope Street, and the importance of the Workshops process, suggested by the council themselves.
 
 
 
It has been a long haul for the two people who took the argument to Geneva because they were frustrated with the way it was being handled in Edinburgh.
 
 
The judgements in the Final report which can be seen here  or on the UNECE website recognise that having the same information available to everyone is a basic precondition to effective objecting.
 
The residents are grateful to the Aarhus Convention Compliance committee, for giving them the fair hearing they feel they have not had in their home city--and making clear that the data collected by public authorities on behalf of the people they nominally serve is not 'their' data' but 'everyone's' data!
 

 

ON the one hand.....

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ON the one hand ..... it's all brilliant but only if it doesn't snow!

Does this mean someone inside the council thinks that the positive spin is rotating so quickly it is in danger of overbalancing and smashing into the ground?  So they immediately 'rowed back smartly' from the sunshiney glow of the first press release with the wintery warning of the second?

Who knows what goes on inside Edinburgh's council?

If this was about veniality, corruption, bribery or anything like that then the lid may well have blown on what is actually going on.

But Edinburgh isn't Moscow, Mexico, Lagos or Kabul--or even Wall Street or Canary Wharf.

The problem in Edinburgh is one of well meaning people, many with a public service conscience, trying to 'do their best', and that makes it all the worse and all the more intractable--- sadly despite the basic decency it is very much a case of 'Meet the New boss, same as the old boss', after the election earlier this year.

With  the good people of the United Nation's Aarhus Concention Compliance Committee about to deliver their final verdict, one would think some of these basically decent people inside the CEC would feel it may be time to just stop the spin and deal with things as they really are.

They know traffic pollution is a massive problem, every single tiny piece of evidence that comes out reveals this, they know the traffic flows around Edinburgh will not 'go back to normal' after the construction period because the tram will have sole use of many formerly main through routes.

They know this traffic will have to go through residential routes in our compact city

So why won't they tell us this?

 

Why can Londoners get facts while we get ignored?

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The debate over London's airport capacity received an important additional contribution recently in a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T) who found that expanding Heathrow could result in 3 times as many deaths from the reulting pollution in 2030 than building an airport on the other side of the city in the Thames Estaury.

The report was picked up by many media outlets and given wide publicity, such is the interest in whether or where extra airport and runway capacity should be built in the South East.

A spokesperson for the scientific team even joked that the findings shouldn't be a major surprise given the prevailing westerley winds that blow Heathrow pollution across the entire city, but would send the same pollution cloud over the considerably less densely populated North Sea from an airport east of London.

The scientists produced a result in accordance with commonsense, which was thereby somehow invalid, and they put some numbers to it.

A spokesman for Heathrow, obviously anxious to find something to say, pointed out the truth that 'airport pollution was responsible for far fewer deaths than traffic pollution' every year.

The MIT report reckoned that Heathrow pollution, presently responsible for 50 deaths a year out of the UK air transport related 110 a year, would be responsible for 150 deaths each year by 2030 with an East of London option causing the same 50 that Heathrow causes now.

The spokesman's comment was correct as recent widely circulated figures showed road traffic as responsible for 4,500 deaths a year in London now.

Translated to Edinburgh the equivalent figure for deaths attributable to road traffic this year would be something around 250 deaths.

The significant thing is that our Council have never made clear what the traffic flows across the city will be after the tram begins to run.

Our debate has never benefitted from any recognition of what is also a commonsense understanding that the research into road traffic pollution and it's effects on health show without any doubt that higher levels or pollution create higher levels of death and illness---and that is that if you close down main routes and force the same amount of traffic down less capable residential roads you will create more pollution from the same amount of traffic and concentrate it in places where people necessarily have to spend more time within it---you may increase deaths and ill health.

Where Londoners have one of the World's greatest universities producing light in their debate---we have a Council still denying the obvious in our debate.

They have a Heathrow sized problem that deserves open discussion and is receiving it--we have a problem five times bigger than the Heathrow one, and 10 years older, that remains shrouded in obfuscation, secrecy and denial

 

Aarhus provisional decision

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The case taken to the United Nation's Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee in Geneva by two Edinburgh residents over the lack of true openess and consultation in the dealings of Edinmburgh Council, particularly over the Tram Project planning and effects, is nearing a final conclusion.

The Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee have a provisonal report on their website, admirably they practise what they preach in adopting the position of putting all information into the public domain, unlike our Council.

So although it is a provisional finding, and has been sent to both parties it is on their own website and in the public domain.

Depending on representations back from both parties DEFRA, (as the convention is a National Government level agreement it is the UK Government responding and not just the City of Edinburgh Council) and the Edinburgh residents Alistair Macintosh and Dr Ashley Lloyd.

However so far it has reached a conclusion with important ramifications for the provision of data by Public sector organisations, Councils and Government departments.

 

Edinburgh Council's Credibility Gap Video

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This 2 minute video report (click here to see it) speaks for itself...  Edinburgh Council fought for years to say that the traffic in this street flows down the kerbside.

It doesn't though!

They have continued for another two years to pretend it flows 'down the edge of the parked cars'.

It doesn't though!

As the video shows (click here) the traffic flows where Residents (who after all live there) have said it flows, for over 4 years, and that is down the centre of the street, another vehicle width out from the parked cars, and two vehicles from the kerbside.

This distance is improtant because if you underestimate the distance of the pollution source, here exhausts in the main, you automatically underestimate the level of pollution.

That's a fact.

 

Edinburgh Council's Credibility Gap Video

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This 2 minute video report (click here to see it) speaks for itself...  Edinburgh Council fought for years to say that the traffic in this street flows down the kerbside.

It doesn't though!

They have continued for another two years to pretend it flows 'down the edge of the parked cars'.

It doesn't though!

As the video shows (click here) the traffic flows where Residents (who after all live there) have said it flows, for over 4 years, and that is down the centre of the street, another vehicle width out from the parked cars, and two vehicles from the kerbside.

This distance is improtant because if you underestimate the distance of the pollution source, here exhausts in the main, you automatically underestimate the level of pollution.

That's a fact.

 

From mad to worse

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Edinburgh council 's attempt to win their own city festival's comedy award is picking up pace.

The self satire of the tram joyrides followed quickly by the side splitter dropped into the 2nd last paragraph of this recent story shows the spin-writers haven't lost their sense of humour since last August's critically acclaimed revue led by the now disbanded theatrical group the 'LibDems': ' On time and on Budget'.

This years production also features an entry in the slapstick award, after news that tram wheels, that might have squealed excrutiatingly because the corners into and out of some streets are too tight , will have bottles of oil that will squirt onto the wheels as they go into a corner.  

This rib tickler isn't the end of it because after the wheels have been oiled the tram wheels might have started slipping on uphill climbs after the corner, but to avoid this sand will then be dropped on the track ahead of them.  

Both Mr Laurel (at the Edinburgh tram oiled wheels dept) and Mr Hardy (At the sanded rails department of the Edinburgh tram) are up for the joint award for this one

The revue ends with a Monty Python style ending as the Council leaders line up to sing: "talks will begin early next year over possible extensions for the project, which is already running five years late and is going to cost at least twice the original budget.":

 

  • " I laughed till I realised I was expected to pay for it all for the next 30 years" - an Edinburgh Tax payer
  • " It's a gravy train that will just keep on rolling." - Tram industry insiders
  • " It's on time and on budget' Lib Dem spokesman
  • "We never voted for it and would have cancelled it had we been in power---- oh! we have been for five years!" -- SNP spokesman
  • "You couldn't make it up!" - Lewis Carroll
  • "Yes we can!! -- Edinburgh Council

 

 

BBC podcast on traffic pollution

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Traffic pollution kills and makes people ill, in this File on Four programme,  they state it is 2nd only to smoking in terms of health impacts.

This podcast asks " So why are most UK areas in breach of legal limits? And do ministers have any clear plan to reduce the huge annual total of resulting deaths? 

The inertia and failure to recognise the problem deescribed in the programme is bad enough, but in Edinburgh we have a Council not only failiing to get a grip but working methodically  to make the effects of traffic created pollution MORE acute across large areas of the city.

The tram project, which had it been properly conceived ought to be an improtant factor in reducing pollution, will in fact make pollution far worse over a period of decades  because of the abject failures of understanding, ambition and courage embedded within the original conception.

In Edinburgh virtually the entire (already inadequate) central arterial road system is being seized by the tram railway for a project unable to share that roadway space, with the unadmitted but undeniable consequence that the trraffic is going FROM often uninhabited streets INTO densely populated residential roads, unable to carry the traffic as effectively.

The same amount of traffic takes it's pollution load FROM uninhabited main arterial routes and because residential roads cannot carry it as smoothly and effectively INCREASES it in those roads. 

Th problem is well described in this File on Four podcast-- and levels the charge that in effect the council in London are fiddling their figures.

Our Council's own foundation report on the trams described (at the beginning of the project, in 2003) well  over 65% of the residents WILL have WORSE air quality BECAUSE of the tram project - the response, from a Council now apparently paralysed by their own PR spin and councillors bewildered by the mismatch between the predictions in their own report, and emerging evidence, and reality, has been to fudge and fiddle the figures.

Elsewhere on this website are documents and articles designed to provoke an open debate about this problem, which will, unless addressed properly, increase illness and even  unnecessary deaths, within the city.

The File on Four programme simply sets out very well a general context within which the scale of the ongoing failure of Edinburgh's present transport policies in the city can be judged.

 

 

Legal oversight is a time bomb in Charlotte Square development

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Do details matter?

In the rush to consider the Charlotte Square development the Council have omitted to produce a proper traffic and environmental study for the scheme which means the paperwork the Councillors of the Transport, INfrastructure and Environmental Committee will have before them isn't fit for purpose.

The legal requirements of a pre-scheme study have not been met and this leaves the project, upon which work has already been started, with a huge question mark over it.

The project itself is an attempt to restore an iconic Square to it's former glory and in that it is laudable.  

But yet again it has profound effects, like the tram and many other current projects, on the ability of the city to manage it's road traffic--the default situation for which for our Council appears to be to just cram more and more traffic into residnetial streets across the city.

A comparison between our project and Reims

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Around the same time as we began our own ill fated light rail project in Edinburgh one was also beginning in the northern french city of  Reims.

It is interesting to compare what are similar projects (click to view) in similar sized urban areas, although Edinburgh is a bit larger than Reims it isn't enormously so.

The Council have made much of the number of cities in the world that have turned to tram systems in recent years to justify their own project and to help to portray doubters as being against the idea of trams in general, rather than this tram project in this city in particular.

The fact is that no-one in the resident's group is against 'trams' or 'the tram' but against the specfic requirement of the Edinburgh tram to take so much of the main arterial road capacity of the city .

The enormous and unacknowledged dislocation of the city's transport capacity means a huge transfer of the noise, general nuisance, degredation and most of all pollution created, and a large increase in it, from the lightly inhabited 'main roads' to the densely residential 'side streets'.

This transfer and it's implications are understood inside the Council but in Public are consistently ignored or even denied.

 

 

 

The things they said in 2006

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It is interesting to see how ready politicans always are to speak about things well into the future, but less keen to look back at what they said in the past.

2010 is no longer 'well into the future' now of course, and in 2006 crictics of the tram project were told, as ever, that 'looking back is pointless' and 'it's time to move on'.  

Unfortunately moving on in 2006 meant moving on towards a catastrophic outcome....  in 2012 'moving on' in terms of the tram project still means hurrying forward to an even greater debacle.

As JM Keynes, much quoted just now, famously said: " When the facts change, I change my mind.......what do you do, Sir?"

Unfortunately, for a our council it seems no amount of changed facts will evfr be sufficent to cause second thoughts, far less any real change of mind-- and instead, like Captain Smith, Officer in charge of the ill fated Titanic, it is 'Full speed ahead' whatever the disasters looming.

Predictions from CEC in 2001, 2006 and 2012

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Edinburgh Council are always saying the Tram is 'now' on time and within budget---the new budget.

As Dirty Harry didn't say--but quite possibly might have,  had he lived in Edinburgh and worked for the Council's PR department  -- " Do you feel lucky punks?"

Seeing as how the predictions in 2001 and 2006 have proved so woefully wide of the mark in both cost and start date for the project the question we all have to ask ourselves, seeing as how this is one of the most finacially feckless council's in the World---Do we feel lucky?

Luck is probably the only thing that can save us from even more financial bad news, as prudence, sober calculation and robust planning have all proved beyond the Council throughout the project.

With the 'off balance sheet' directly consequential health and other impacts, from the willed displacement of traffic from non-residential streets to residential streets not yet factored in; and most of the extra money so expensively borrowed already gone, maybe, as Professor Brian Cox once also didn't say (But might have had he lived in Edinburgh) "Things can only get worse".

 

Fail to plan really is plan to fail

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What is happening to Edinburgh is very sad.  

What was one of the most liveable of cities is slowly being sacrificed on the altar of an unworkable idea.

 The problem is not the 'temporary' period of the works but the permanent aftermath following construction ---look at the plans (mentioned by others in comments to the article above) and  the problems are obvious.  

 Read STAG 2003 planning and feasibility report to see 60% of our Citiy's residential streets can expect an increase in traffic DUE to the tram being introduced.

With all the noise, pollution, bad health effects and other small degradations to everyday life that will bring.  

Blaming all this then on the traffic itself , the Council's preferred tactic these days, is like blaming the rain for the fact that the walls are running with water and the floor inches deep in a flood, rather than their failure to repair the roof properly and clear the gutters.

The most deceitful part of OUR tram project is that while the PR spin boasts of it's Green credentials, and much is made of how much better Princes Street will be when empty of traffic, this is not being acheived by solving the problem of traffic but by moving it all out of the way from that street, and some other main thoroughfares and squashing it into residential streets like Albany Street and Abercromby Crescent.

But the STAG 2003 prediction that over 60% of households in the city would see more pollution (ie more traffic , noise, degradation) shows traffic will increase in far more streets than the handful actually physically located alongside those streets 'cleansed' by the tram tracks.

At present the Council are refusing to acknowledge this and continue painting the problem as one 'just for the construction period', affecting a few streets 'where well off people just don't want to have to put up with traffic' and whose critics are 'addicted to their cars and selfishly won't consider giving them up'.

Each of these is untrue and because people within the administration are aware that they are untrue they are effectively lies.

Traffic comprising buses, vans, lorries, HGVs, LGVs, Taxis and even some of the car journeys each day, are vital to the commercial and business life of the city---they are not all fat cats popping to a shop a few hundred yards away and school runs in Chelsea Tractors---some are of course, but not all by any means.

Their own reports show that the result of their wilful planning blindness in respect of 'what happens to the traffic we force out?' is that it goes through more and more residential streets----it is obvious that when roads like Great Stuart Street or Albany Street are gridlocked with idling traffic that this traffic, like water trickling through sand, will percolate through streets in a wider and wider area.

To quote other cities, such as Rheims, Barcelona, Montpellier, Melbourne et al thaty often have specifically catered for vital traffic BEFORE building trams, and continue to plan for traffic ALONGSIDE the tram, is dishonest.

Our response has been to ignore a problem we felt too difficult and too expensive to address, and because of that, ever since, try and simply deny it exists even as the evidence of it's effects begin to appear before us.

Ours is not a failure of  imagination, ambition, hope, and reach, the familiar and fashionable adjectivesof  aspirational press releases, our Council have plenty of those as they gaze heavenward towards an ever blue sky (well, perhaps, just recently not quite so blue!)

Our failure is in areas like commonsense planning , attending to detail, taking account of geographic and topographic reality as it is in our City and not as we would ideally like it to be,  and considering our grasp before we  extend our reach;.

The boring and unfashionable parts of any undertaking.

Return to that STAG 2003 report and the graphic on the front cover and have a look at the two carriage tram, the line indicating trees and the absence of overhead wires and poles.  That is a picture of the tram in a city like Rheims, similar in many wasy to Edinburgh---in our city thousands of mature trees have had to be sawn down simply because the overhead wires are threatened by them--the iconic views in the city centre are blocked for generations of photographers to come...and in it's effects on the home lives and health of people who live in Edinburgh the cover should be anything other than green.

To take one of those 'aspirational adjectives' beloved of politicians and bureaucrats alike, our failure is a failure of courage.

 

To be aware of the full extent of the potential disaster awaiting us yet continue to press ahead chaotically, simply because the original problem was deemed too expensive to acknowledge, let alone address, is just cowardly.

 

Doubts cast over tram money running out...again!!

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This article in a specalist Engineering magazine casts doubts over the cash situation of the Tram Project.

This is a familiar story for those who remember repeated warnings from the likes of John Carson some years back in which he warned the project was dangerously off track; only to be accused of being alarmist by the Project PR machine, and prominent council supporters, who repeatedly said the project was on time and on budget..

Since then everything he said about a Billion pound project has been vindicated and everything they said shown to be spin at best and lies at worst.,

In this article sources close to the project are quoted as saying the contingency fund, for problems such as a recent gas main breach in Haymarket that brought work to a halt, is now getting dangerously low.

Especially in view of the major complications involved, just one amongst many  being the need for reconstructing the descent , turn and road surface gradient of York Place to allow the trams to descend safely from North St Andrews Street.

If the article is right the already enormous bonfire of cash burnt on this project could be about to get a whole lot larger and a project that has taken our city to the edge of an abyss, perhaps carry us over it.

The council's plan drawing showing road space and traffic post tram construction

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There is a lot of talk, anger, dismay, dissension and despair about the present chaos arising from the diversions from York Place, while construction is going on.

The Council are carefully not spelling out that enormous changes to the capacity of York Place to carry traffic are permanenet results of the present 'construction' phase.  This is a repeat of their tactics used elsewhere to sideline any opposition.

It means that however bad the present situation may become they can continue to refer to it as a passing phases, and allow the idea that 'all will get back to normal once they finish building it'.

This isn't true however, and this plan shows why. -- (click to see it properly--images below link to it but are graphics only)

 

                                                                             [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"1046","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","id":"media_crop_7687493092380","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"thumbnail","media_crop_instance":"181","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]                      

The Council's own technical drawing shows that the traffic flows will be reduced to one lane in places, with a second filter lane for access to and from the multi story car park servicing the St James Centre.

 

                                                                    [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"1051","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","id":"media_crop_7401524588931","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"thumbnail","media_crop_instance":"186","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

   

With buses, traffic, extra traffic light delays for trams turning down from St Andrews Street North and returning, as well as having to accomodate passengers crossing to and from the centre of the new layout (the temporary tram stop being in the centre of the road) the potenmtial for increased congestion and chaos is obvious---and the temptation to make the present diversion permanent could become overwhelming, if it has not in reality, already been decided.

 

                                                                  [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"1056","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","id":"media_crop_1461552684195","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"thumbnail","media_crop_instance":"191","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

Whether one feels this is supposition is justified or not it is remarkable how  the Council have kept the situation after the construction phase is over shrouded in mystery.

They have not been clear on excatly how bus stops, cars, lorries and vans will all be accomodated on this street after the construction phase.  The virtually total closure of Princes Street, and the publicised plans to block the George street roadway with things like festival tents and all year wider pavements on the South side, mean this is the final main road East West route for the city centre.

And as we write they are still working out exactly how much work will be needed to raise and re-align the street level to allow the tram vehciles even to get around the corner from North St Andrews Street safely.

It is in thinking through all these interconnected issues that  the residents behind this site have come to understand how, to give one example, the Meadows, Bruntsfield, Sciennes, Marchmont and Grange and Trinity residential areas can  become heavily affected by decanted traffic alongside those streets adjacent to the route.

 

Ends..

An absent minded zombie destroying the city

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I think I agree with some people on the Scotsman website who blogged that this was a bit of a weak story... in truth it is a case study that should sit inside in a larger story.

But in another way that is what it IS doing and the larger story is the well established saga of the Tram project, at the end of teh day the only thing that matters is the real effects on real people in the real world---something the tram project lost sight of years ago.

It exists in a different kind of world from teh real one and now seems to stumble forward like some sort of absent minded Zombie, plodding on without any governing mind, but slowly destroying the city it was meant to adorn.

The tram project is a powerful symbol of a deeper malaise within Edinburgh's political and governance structures, but it is only the most egregious among many.

The failures to regenerate Leith conveniently packed away and forgotten about, the straightforward state of the City with seagulls, squirrels and other vermin pecking away at rubbish,  until it spills across pavements,.and the state of the roads and pavements themselves, pockmarked, subsiding, a complete mess, and not least, the property repairs scandal  are all part of a larger picture. - certainly not disconnected examples of bad luck and hard lines.

The tram is not actually the sole and primary cause of the move to eliminate traffic from the City centre.

It is the most obvious  cause of the problems.  But what is going on at a level beneath the tram project is a larger plan to try to recast Edinburgh, not as the Athens of the North, but as the Barcelona, Bruges, Rheims or whatever---And there is nothing wrong in that per se.

Just as long as a) the full plan was ever debated PROPERLY, and b) the bad effects arising from it made clear.

One of which is the closure of what everyone in Edinburgh formerly knew as the main cross City routes for traffic and the displacement by stealth of that traffic into more densely inhabited residential streets.

The central failure of the tram project, and it's larger cousin the clearing of all traffic, is that unlike in dozens  of cities across Europe who planned what should happen to the traffic, Edinburgh (ironically probably simply to avoid spending money) tried to do it on the cheap and without telling anyone what they were doing.

The tram, in terms of it being a meaningful transport system able to impact on the city in a positive way, is effectively irrelevant.  Worse than that it is consuming tomorrow's money, the cash that will be needed to find some way of creating a relavent and meaningful system, and reducing the possibilities open to us.

In that sense the story of the woman in Broughton is a case study liable to be replicated tens and even hundreds of thousands of times over (STAG2003 report) in order to accomodate a transport project that is far beyond it's sell by date before a single tram has run, and which in it's insatiable need for cash is consuming the money needed to put things right.

It's like the M6 Motorway!!!!!!

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The schools aren't back but already residents on the Albany Terrace, Abercromby Place route are complaining that it's like 'the M6 motorway'.

That's because it is the M6 motorway.... well the major A1 national arterial route continuation across the city.  The traffic won't stay where it is either, drivers will, as Lesley Hinds said, and as the Council's policy has dictated for years, 'find their own way' and that will include roads and quiet streets miles away from York Place,as well as  the likes of Great King Street St, Stockbridge and numerous rat runs nearby.

The price the city is paying is simply too high for a now meaningless project that is going to eat up so much money that it has destroyed the possibility of doing anything to put it right.  The idea that delusional supporters have that more loss making tracks will be built at some point in the future, borrowing more and more money , is borderline insanity----the local, Scottish, Uk, European and World economies could be facing a downturn that makes the recent ones seem tame.

Yet in Edinburgh the Council is shovelling more and more and more cash into the flames as if there is no tomorrow ---- instead of beingone of the last cities to adopt the old solution, we could have spent far less on being one of the first to adopt the new, truly green and truly integrated one; Hydrogen powered buses able to share with all traffic including cyclists and go anywhere demand may dictate--free from the rail bound road train's limitations.

The air that we breathe...

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This 2011 data table shows the latest available position in respect of air quality figures in Great Stuart Street and St Colme Street..

Air quality levels are important not only because air pollution  causes illnesses and death, but they are also important because they act as a concrete and measurable indicator of the other effects of rising traffic levels in terms  noise, danger and sheer degredation to the living environment.  

We believe that many years ago the council  realised what the effects of the demands of the tram on road space would be.  

But for a variety of reasons they felt they had no alternative but to allow this traffic to be decanted down residential streets. 

Nor is this just a few streets like those on this document  because the Council's own documents have shown as many as 139,500 households in Edinburgh, where 300,000 people live would have worse air quality...more traffic at their doors... with the tram, than if it had not been built.

It has been dishonest of the Council over a number of years to have never made clear to people the sheer size and scale of the traffic displacement caused by their design of tram, but to instead have tried to manage this and rely on obfuscation, denial and policy by stealth.

The head of scientific services Dr Mackie has said in emails to colleagues (elsewhere on this site) that IF he re-calibrated the figures using 'the distance factor the Resident's advocate' should be used, and/or using the National Bias factor, equally acceptable as thel locally derived one used by his department, that changing either of these elements could mean we are already seeing levels above those EU statutory limits.

The refusal to countenance any truly open debate or face up to the true facts is corroding the authority of the Council and it's councillors in the eyes of the mass of the people of the city.  If this continues it can only lead to greater disasters than those that have already occurred.

Tram traffic chaos in streets where you live?--You read it here first.

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http://www.scotsman.com/news/transport/driven-round-the-bend-new-town-braced-for-horrendous-disruption-for-next-16-months-1-2412249?commentspage=1#commentsSection

For many years a small group of people in the city were saying the tram project as designed, planned and being forced through would lead to enormous increases in traffic in RESIDENTIAL streets because the tram could not share road space with traffic, and as it was due to annex all the major historic routes, the traffic would have to be forced from these roads and into residential roads.

There was and is no alternative.

The residents used air quality levels as a 'marker', or indicator for the traffic levels expected because the rises in air pollution correlate, in a city like Edinburgh, very closely to rises in traffic.  After all they haven't yet built any steelworkson the meadows or polymer chemical plants at Inverleith---- so as there own figures tell them, 86% plus of the worst air pollutants in Edinburgh are created by traffic.

We say 'EXPECTED' because we got these figures from THE COUNCIL'S own report (published as far back as 2003), which can be found elsewhere on our site do admire the cover in fashionable green and play the 'spot the deliberate error' game to find the Overhead line system powering the tram emerging from some (not yet felled) trees

The relevant part of this report stated (to save trawling through the whole thing you can see just the extract here) ,  that BECAUSE of the tram being built 139,500 MORE households across Edinburgh would have WORSE air quality by 2026 (Though they had expected the tram to be running by 2010 of course) ---that is 16 years AFTER the tram starts up--because of 'increased congestion'.

 

This is not "...kind of, sort of increased congestion' just sort of 'because...well everyone knows congestion will get worse and worse anyway" (as former Tram leader Gordon Mackenzie once seemed to believe in a meeting of the Transport, Infrastructure and Environmental Committee) --but because building the tram as planned (Too big, fast, fat and heavy) we CREATE this congestion.

It gets worse OVER A NUMBER OF YEARS after being opened for more and more streets acrooss the city, until 139,500 households (not people) are worse off---that is well over half of the city---than they would have been if we had not built it.

If you are NOT worse off in 2030 you will be in the minority ---or you would have been had they managed to  build the whole planned system.  Of course the flawed scheme enjopyed flawed planning and management and they failed to do this, so things may not be as bad as that 65%plus of EVERYONE in the city having worse air, congestion, noise and degredation to their streets.

They're only taking out the most vital central section bits of arterial route and quietly transferring it to avenues, closes, crescents and streets.

This traffic and it's pollution creates illnesses in the young and old, and even causes deaths, that is why for many decades town planning has revolved around controlling traffic flows and segregating traffic to SEPARATE IT from where people live.

Uniquely, Edinburgh has created a project, labelled it a  tram, which, in reality,  is an uncontrolled, unregulated, unsupervised and un-measured experiment to discover what increases in illness, chronic respiratory conditions and even deaths may result from injecting huge traffic flows into residential streets.

But in respect of those now realising what the York Place work means for them and who missed the warnings a few years back here is another prediction----

Pretty soon you can expect to hear that 'bad as this is' it is only 'temporary' and when 'finished' things will get 'back to normal'.

When finished York Place will have lost two central lanes permanently --tram rail cannot have traffic flowing on it.

While some traffic will be able to use the street when this is finished; do not be folled into thinking it will  'go back to normal' ...ever.

 If anything, for the wider New Town and far beyond, this is closer to the 'new normal' than what has now been lost to the 'Project'.

The only temporary thing about the tram project are the promises made by a bankrupt administration--- the only permanent things are the problems it brings.

Inquiry now calls from columnist

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Growing calls for action now (and not many years from now),  in a  perceptive column by Gina Davidson.

We couldn't agree more.  

Past mistakes need to be examined, along with the roles played by every political party bar none, the Scottish Government, and not least whether half a thousand million pounds was simply wasted through ineptitude---- or whether some may have been lost less innocently along the way.

But more imporrtantly we need to investigate exactly what the extra pollution. congestion and ill health effects are to be that can be expected as a result of the City of Edinburgh Council taking 'the easy way out' initially, and eliminating cross city traffic from the old major arterial routes and plonking it by stealth into residential streets

More important?  Because with a will, and without the baggage of all the past errors, connivances and deceits this is a problem that something can still be done about these things.... if we act quickly.

If at first you don't succeed --- pay for more PR

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Another day and another little shaft of light shone in on the way the Tram project has been pursued.

Given the council have a large (very large) and well resourced PR department on the payroll it shouldn't be necessary to spend £1 Million with 4 outside firms on the project PR.

Crisis Management is just spin, there are other elements to it than simply accentuating the positives and ignoring the negatives.

The 'Dark Arts' may have a place in justfying Bankers bonuses to the ordinary 'punter', or weapons sales to third world countries, by dissing dissent and obfuscating facts  but they surely have no place in a democratically accountable organisation whose primary duty of care is towards those people, it's citizens, who are the very people having the wool pulled over their eyes.  In effect the city has employed these people to fool itself......as ever a full Public inquiry, even with a parallel criminal inquiry (give recent revalations about the complete lack of oversight of half a Billion pounds) is needed urgently.

 

Don't bother telling us what you spend it on!!

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Something is very rotten inside the whole governing process in Scotland relating to the benighted Edinburgh Tram project as recent stories are finally showing.

We now find the Scottish Government threw £500,000,000 into the doorway at City Chambers with less in the way of care and safeguards than any parent would take handing out their children's sweetie money..

It is astonishing that this can have happened, despicable that the political establishment in both City Chambers and Holyrood have fought so long to cover it up  and the fact that so much cash has been burned to build so little demands not only a PUBLIC ENQUIRY but a parallel CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION.

The Investigation would be to establish whether the non- criminal corruption of good governance that surrounds the project has been accompanied by any overt criminality.  There may not be any,  but having so much public money spent with so little supervision  means the possibility cannot simply be dismissed with  shrug.

A Public Enquiry, to decide whether the extra £231,000,000 (£450 Million when all interest is added in) is a) going to be enough anyway and, far more importantly, b) whether it isn't being used to build at least part of the solution to the city's transport problem ----------  but to complete the construction of the problem itself.

So great is the traffic dislocation that will be a permanent feature of the city and so few are the passengers expected now,  that the huge jams, congestion and pollution in residential streets to allow largely empty trams to trundle  for decades is too high a price to pay---if  a properly convened inquiry were to decide that then even at this stage the project ought to be re-thought.

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