Tag Archives: leith walk

Death on the roads

I love Fleet Street Fox, I really do, but her blogpost making fun of cyclists and complaining that if you’re squished by a bus you should have been wearing a helmet wasn’t her finest hour.

Jon Snow of Channel 4 has done a five-minute film partly with a helmet-cam of what it’s like cycling in London. He admits near the start that he runs red lights to get ahead of the traffic because the secret to survival is making sure you’re seen.
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Our constitution, July 2012: Rights to the Commons

Today, Andy Wightman reports, the Scottish Government announced

the establishment of a “Land Reform Review Group” that will oversee a “wide ranging review of land reform in Scotland”. If this happens it will be very worthwhile.

However, the remit and membership of this group are yet to be agreed with Scottish Ministers and it is unclear how wide the remit will be. If it is simply to undertake a technical review of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, it will be of very limited value when the real issues concern inflated land values, affordability of housing, succession law, tax avoidance, secrecy, absentee landlordism, theft of common land, land registration laws, common good etc. etc. etc.

So Andy is crowdsourcing definitions of “land reform” and outlines of the remit of this Land Reform Review group in the comments at his blog – go, read, join in.

1. Enhanced constitutional rights (e) Rights to the Commons (eg water, access to countryside)

You may remember, before the council elections earlier this year, an Aberdonian pensioner, Renee Slater, registered a mannequin, whom she named Helena Torry, to stand in the Hazlehead, Ashley and Queens Cross ward. When it was discovered that Helena Torry was not entitled to be a council candidate, the notice of poll for that ward was republished, deleting Helena Torry, and Grampian Police charged Slater with an offence under the Representation of the People Act 1983.

What you may not remember, unless you live in Aberdeen, was that this wasn’t just a silly joke or a satiric commentary on the quality of council candidates these days.

Union Terrace Gardens are a public park opened in 1879: part of the park is planted with elms that are about 200 years old, about two and a half acres of sunken gardens, planted with elms that are nearly 200 years old. From early in the 21st century onwards, there had been plans to develop a centre for contemporary arts in Aberdeen, in partnership between Peacock Visual Arts and Aberdeen Council. The development had been designed by Brisac Gonzales, had been budgeted at £13.5 million, and would have included a restaurant and a gallery. Full planning permission and £9.5 million of public funding from various sources had been secured.
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Blue Sky at Leith

Today’s the last day to go see the blue sky project dreamed up for Leith Walk, on display at Out of the Blue in Dalmeny Street – till 5pm today.

There’s more about the background to the project in Monday’s post, but I was really interested by their ideas. You should go look! (And come to the Open Space event on 5th June.)

They noted:

We identified 4 areas of undoubted potential: Continue reading

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Leith Walk Out of the Blue

Vision for Leith Walk:

Leith Walk is the longest street in Edinburgh and the one with the most character. It’s one of the most multicultural areas in Edinburgh.

The students of Edinburgh University’s Sustainable Design Master’s Programme are learning “how to design sustainable, environmentally responsive buildings and neighbourhoods” and interested in “how imaginative design solutions can make more resilient and secure communities within existing cities”.

The Sustainable Design Students at Out of the Blue Drill Hall

They write:

We’re currently working on a project along Leith Walk, extending from the Playhouse to the Sea Continue reading

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Hustings for an equal council

Tomorrow (18th April) is your very last day to get registered to vote in the council elections on 3rd May. You’ve got till 5pm.

There were two hustings tomorrow. But the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce “Business Hustings” with all the party leaders on 18th April has been cancelled. (Contact them for information.) The other hustings, hosted by the Federation of Small Businesses and the Evening News, has all male candidates the panellists are: Jeremy Balfour (Conservative), Tom Buchanan (SNP), Andrew Burns (Labour), Tim McKay (Lib. Dem), and Chas Booth (Scottish Green Party). It’s in Bread Street from 6pm and may require a ticket for admission.

On Thursday 19th April there are four hustings:
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Vision for Leith Walk

Leith Walk is the longest street in Edinburgh and the one with the most character. It’s one of the most multicultural areas in Edinburgh. There are about eight supermarkets on Leith Walk and a few chain shops and franchises, and the usual array of charity shops and some ugly new pawnshops and moneylenders, but there’s also a host of local businesses, including some which are the best in Edinburgh for what they sell: Scottish scones and cake, Mexican food, Polish bread, Sicilian pastries, Bangladesh curries, Chinese markets, Italian coffee, Tattie Shaws for fruit and veg, furniture, clothes, electronics, books, art, music, excellent pubs, several cybercafes all of which provide good quality Internet, ranging from the very basic to the positively luxurious – Leith Walk is great.

And Edinburgh Council has treated it like crap.

The roads are in a state not even justified by the trams. The pavements are broken and unmended. There’s state-sponsored graffiti warning us that we’re in danger of being stabbed. It’s even difficult to cross the road.
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Trams? Trams? Look over there – a spaceship!

On Saturday 3rd March 2012 Edinburgh bus fares are going to go up. Again.

The bus fares change in 2012 will be the fourth rise since 2006, when a single bus fare went up to £1: In April 2008 to £1.10, then in January 2009 to £1.20, which was blamed on rising labour costs. In 2011, to £1.30, it was blamed on fuel costs: in 2012, a single fare will be £1.40 – and now it’s the withdrawal of the grant and the fall in passenger numbers due to the trams. Whatever the reason, that’s a rise of 175%40% (pre-coffee calculations) in 6 years.

Princes Street will still be covered in roadworks as they try, once more, to get the lines straight. The obstacle course that we scrambled through on Leith Walk was entirely pointless – they don’t now plan to build tramlines any further than St Andrews Square. The route will run in parallel with the trainline from Haymarket all the way to Edinburgh Airport, where it would have been entirely possible to build a halt, a connecting bridge, lifts, and a feeder road to the airport buildings with a fleet of accessible buses, in half the time and for a fraction of the cost.

On 3rd March 2007 the Scottish Government released £60M for Edinburgh Council’s big trams project. Tavish Scott, the MSP for Shetland, then the Transport Minister, said:

“Trams will give passengers a safe, environmental travel choice, a choice which will see reduced congestion and reduced emissions.

“The utilities agreement that has been put in place is the right approach. Allowing a single contractor to do all the work will minimise disruption in the Capital, save money and ensure the delivery of the project. That is welcome news for Edinburgh.”

Yes, it would have been, wouldn’t it? Continue reading

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Tramacle: Take the Train

In this morning’s Scotland on Sunday, Kenny Farquharson, the former Political Editor and now the Deputy Editor, writes that the only thing that can save Edinburgh from the tramacle is for Alex Salmond to put the trams on the right track.

I’d been directed there from Twitter by several people I follow who thought it was a great article, but:

It’s crucial we find an efficient way of whisking visitors – be they tourists or business people – away from the airport as quickly and comfortably as possible to the bus and rail connections that can take them to wherever in Scotland they are heading

Oh Kenny, how can you have lived in Edinburgh for 23 years and never taken the train from Waverley into Fife over the Forth Rail Bridge? (Well worth doing, by the way – when I was an Edinburgh-Rosyth commuter, every weekday morning I’d look up from my reading as the sound of the rails told me we were reaching the bridge, and let the glorious burst of view over the Forth feast my eyes: and notice that all through the carriage, commuters who saw this view twice a day every working day, were looking up from their work or the coffee wide-eyed to enjoy.)

But this post is not about the Forth Rail Bridge. Simply that if you ever had, you’d have known that the “efficient way” to whisk visitors from airport to train already exists.

(Mind you, the Airlink buses are pretty efficient as airport connector buses go – airport to city centre in less than half an hour: comfortable and inexpensive.)

You see, the railway line runs right past the airfield. All we need is to build a halt (platforms either side and a connecting bridge): a feeder road from the halt to the airport itself: and a fleet of buses to take passengers from halt to airport. If we hadn’t already wasted so much money on the Edinburgh Tram Debacle (the Broughton Spurtle* suggests Tramacle as the appropriate name) we could have considered more expensive options, but the beauty of the plan to build a halt, a bridge, and a road is that it’s possible Edinburgh Airport could expand on this when it’s proved successful.

That project, which was the most obvious solution even back when Edinburgh Trams were first mooted, has become even more appealling now Waverley Station is in the process of making itself accessible for the 21st century. But Haymarket station is already accessible, with lifts to all platforms and to street level.

We don’t even need a new set of expensive trains, as London has done for train connections to Heathrow: we just need to add a new stop on the line. Even more efficient than the Airlink buses, far cheaper than any trams project, and neatly allowing tourists who intend to land at Edinburgh and travel to other parts of Scotland to do so seamlessly.

The original plan to replace the 22 bus route with a tram line that could whisk people from Newhaven to the airport didn’t have much of a point to it: the current plan, which amounts to replacing the Airlink buses as far as Haymarket with a tramline that will cost over a billion, is so monstrously stupid I cannot believe anyone who knows Edinburgh transport could listen to it with a straight face, let alone vote for it! We need to take the train, not build a brand new tram line that replicates the train route!

Incidentally, Edinburgh Trams have already cost more than covering Princes Street with gold. Let’s not throw more gold on the streets. Please.

*Update: Greener Leith seems to have been the originator: Twitter misled me. There’s a slideshow at the Greener Leith blog of Twitter reactions to the Edinburgh Council debate:

to give you a sense of the strength of feeling the debate has produced. It would seem most Leithers simply want to get Leith Walk repaired as quickly as possible.

Amen to that.


Update: on Twitter, last night, I got into a discussion with Tom Parnell (@ArchHist) who asserted and repeatedly defended that the #TakeTheTrain alternative to the trams is not workable because it would require more trains which would require building new lines which would require rebuilding Waverley Station, all of which would cost billions. (He also asserted that the Airlink bus service, which can get you from the airport to Edinburgh in 15 minutes to half an hour depending on traffic, is “not mass transit!” but I’ve been on a lot worse and more expensive bus-connections between airports and city centre in my travels.)

There is a purpose-built trainlink between Paddington Station in London and Heathrow Airport. Trains run every fifteen minutes and take fifteen minutes there and back.

The trainlink between Waverley Station and Edinburgh Airport, presuming only existing rail lines and the same train frequency as now were used, would run four times an hour and take less than fifteen minutes to reach the airport. So the argument dismissing #TakeTheTrain as too costly presumes that Edinburgh Airport will need a faster and more frequent train service from Edinburgh than Heathrow does from London.

Edinburgh Airport saw 8,596,715 passengers in 2010.

Heathrow Airport saw 67 million passengers in 2010.

Seriously?

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Tramfail Edinburgh

Years ago, back before the 2008 banks failure, there was a plan to build shiny new blocks of flats out along Newhaven breakwater and other shiny new buildings along Leith waterfront.  The wealthy people who would live there would step into a tram – the terminus at Newhaven – and in a few stops be at Princes Street, or stay on and reach Edinburgh Airport. This was going to cost £545 million, mostly funded by a £500M grant from the Scottish Government.

What the regular people, those of us who use public transport daily, thought and said was:

But wait! The railway line goes directly past Edinburgh Airport. Commuters between Edinburgh and Fife pass the airfield every day of the working week. Instead of paying £545 million for a connecting line from Newhaven to the airport, why not pay far less and get a railway halt by the airfield, and a connecting road between the halt and the airport, and spring for a fleet of transport buses for the road?

Granted that would have meant that the rich folks who were in principle going to be living out at Newhaven, and the Scottish Government employees from Victoria Quay (the tram would have gone right past them), would have had to plan on getting by public transport from their home or their work to Waverley or Haymarket, and getting on the train, rather than one beautifully comfortable ride, but it would have cost less.

But wait! The tram line is going to occupy a fair amount of space on Edinburgh’s not-very-wide streets. There already is a public transport service that goes from Ocean Terminal along Princes Street to the Gyle regularly, one of the most useful buses in LRT’s fleet, the 22 – and this tram line is going to ensure that the 22 runs less frequently, at the very least.

Granted getting on a bus and finding the exact change and sitting with a lot of plebs isn’t as glam as a shiny new tram. But we vote too, the many who ride on the bus.

This was all before any of the other issues came up. All along the proposed tram route, including Leith Walk, Princes Street, and Shandwick Place – three of the busiest streets in Edinburgh – the road was going to have to be closed down and dug up. For months at a time. To move and refurbish old pipe and wires, so that – eventually – tram lines could be laid. Leith, hardest hit for years, got least attention or compensation. But the roadworks hurt everybody. And what was said, in a friend of a friend of friend way, was that the company hired at the start to evaluate the costs of the tram enterprise and the damage the road closures would do to business, had been told they must provide a positive report: that any doubts they had about the timescale or the costs must be squelched.

For a while there were boards down Leith Walk advertising that the trams would take you to work in 2011. (Some wag wrote on one “I can’t wait that long!“) They got taken down in early 2010, but well before that, everyone knew – 2011 was an early estimate date, not a final completion date.

Edinburgh trams at Ocean Terminal

For a while there were a pair of tram carriages at Ocean Terminal, for people to admire, but they've gone too.

And then the council met, and decided that the best solution was to truncate the line – the rich people’s homes out at Newhaven weren’t being built or bought, and the tram had never been meant for the plebs, so the best solution was to have it go from St Andrew’s Square all the way out to the airport: a tram line running in parallel to the train line that already goes to the airport. Further public transport disruption, more costs, for a line of doubtful value in the first place.

The costs of this truncated project are currently estimated at £830 million and probably more. The project has already cost £550 million and terminating it would cost the council £180 million more as a one-off payment which they don’t have the revenue to cover (and the Scottish Government refuses to help). I suppose the Council are still hoping that if they can only get a shiny new tram line running, gradually people will forget.

I doubt it.

–Update: Oh wait.

The council’s report, which wasn’t going to be available till Monday, is now online:

Section 3.20 deals with the costs of just quitting – no longer throwing good money after bad. “The specific agreement reached at mediation was that each of the Consortium members would prepare sealed envelope estimates of their costs for walking away from the contract in the event that the Council was unable to secure the necessary funding to complete the project. Further discussions now indicate, in the event that the Council is unable to secure approval of the funding to complete to St. Andrew Square, termination of the contract by this mechanism, resolving all related liabilities, as at the 25 August, i.e. some £80m below the costs of unilateral separation as previously calculated. However, it should be noted that this is currently not legally binding.”

So it will probably cost £100M to wrap up the project and admit it was a foolish idea. But no one really knows, still, what it will cost to build the tramline from St Andrew’s Square to the airport.

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EdEqualElect: Leith Walk Ward

Leith Walk Ward (4 councillors)

11 candidates standing.

Winners last time: SNP (Deidre L Brock) in the first round. Liberal Democrats (Louise A Lang) in the fifth round – Liberal, Scottish Socialist, and an independent eliminated. Scottish Green (Maggie Chapman) in the eighth round (Solidarity and Conservative eliminated) and Labour (Angela Blacklock) in the 10th round (the second Labour candidate, Trevor Davies was eliminated).

The incumbents standing are Deirdre Leanne Brock (SNP), Angela Blacklock (Labour), and Maggie Chapman (Scottish Green). They’re also the only three women standing.

Edinburgh Reporter on Angela Blacklock
Edinburgh Reporter on Deirdre L Brock (@DeidreBrock)
Edinburgh Reporter on Maggie Chapman (@MaggieEdinburgh)

The Broughton Spurtle will host two hustings this year on 19 April for Leith Walk Ward and 25 April for City Centre Ward at Broughton St Marys Parish Church, 12-13 Bellevue Crescent, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH3 6NE (Edinburgh Reporter)

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