Page last updated at 16:57 GMT, Sunday, 30 March 2008 17:57 UK

'Trams bring many unique benefits'

Work on the project to bring trams to Edinburgh is well under way. Phil Wheeler, Edinburgh City Council's transport convener, looks at the benefits he believes they will bring.

Over the past few years Edinburgh's economy has been booming and all indications are that this period of prosperity is likely to continue.

Phil Wheeler
Phil Wheeler is Edinburgh City Council's transport convener

With forecasters predicting as many as 30,000 new jobs in the next 10 years we have to plan for how a small city manages this type of growth.

We cannot build roads to meet the needs of our future, and present citizens, nor can we create more car parks to accommodate the growing number of vehicles coming into the city.

Edinburgh just does not have the space for this. So we must look for practical solutions and creating an integrated, high capacity public transport system is just such a solution.

Trams are integral to this. While Edinburgh has excellent bus services, buses are not the answer on their own.

They share the road network with other users, and can suffer from the consequences of road congestion, which means less reliability and higher operating costs.

'Growing demand'

With a dedicated track and many sections off-road, trams are less susceptible to these problems and can carry three times more people than buses.

Without trams, there is no practical way to meet the growing demand for public transport along the booming waterfront to Airport route.

Buses will continue to be a hugely important part of our transport network though and will be integrated with trams.

Evidence from other cities where the introduction of trams has been hugely successful shows that commuters, residents, businesses and visitors enjoy quicker journeys to work and shops, more investment in the city, more accessible public transport and cleaner air.

Trams bring many more unique benefits to a city. People love using trams, so they bring new shoppers and residents into areas.

Critically, businesses know just how popular and beneficial trams are and are so very keen to be sited near them.

Extensive planning

This leads to more investment to a city. This can take the form of new jobs, new shops, new housing and new leisure opportunities.

Of course we're aware that you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs and there will be disruption across the route while construction of the tram scheme is under way.

We do apologise for this, but the work that's gone on so far has been undertaken with extensive planning and consultation with local communities and our contractors have striven where possible to ensure any disruption to homes and businesses is kept to a minimum and this will continue whenever a new work site gets under way.

It's taken us a long time to get to this point and the proposals have not been without their detractors.

However, I believe the case for trams has been well made and I look forward to seeing them up-and-running on our streets in 2011.

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