Tram Extension Comments

POSTED ON April 27, 2018

Approach must be Civic Design led; supporting community vitality and viability


Approach must be Civic Design led; supporting community vitality and viability

Summary Position

The Cockburn Association supports the extension of Edinburgh’s current tram line.

We believe that the completion of this through Leith to Newhaven will yield significant benefits for these communities and also for the wider city. This is a trans-generational project.  Its design, and the influence that it will have not only along its line but across wider communities, will be with us for many years to come with little or no scope for changes or amendations.  Thus, it is utterly crucial that we get the design right.

Most of our comments relate to Leith Walk where we feel that the functionality of this street as one of Edinburgh’s most vital and exciting thoroughfares is under threat.  Leith will soon see many changes with a significant level of residential development and other changes likely in the relatively short term. Leith’s existing local culture and identity is unique in Edinburgh.   No other part of the city has quite the same mix of the of people, local enterprise and community groups. The proposed extension of the tram line through Leith to Newhaven is part of this ongoing process of transition and renewal.  We accept that the tram line can and should make a positive contribution to the changing face of Leith.  But we must have the correct tram scheme: a scheme which is led by, and which is a true investment in, Leith’s existing local community, culture and identity.

Fundamentally, the tram line and other traffic elements (including cycle lanes) must support the vitality and livability of the Leith community and of Leith Walk. Our concern is that both vitality and livability are being forced to conform to a transport driven design proposal – as in Picardy Place. The very inclusion of Pedestrian Deterrent Paving suggests and intention to separate, rather than integrate.

In supporting of this line extension, we call for a review from first principles of proposals for the whole line extension, with a focus on Leith Walk, and a more considered and in-depth evaluation of the impacts of the proposed route on the existing tram route, existing bus routes, surrounding streets and neighbourhoods and the wider cityscape.

However, for reasons articulated in this response, although we support tram extension in principle, we do not support the Council’s current proposals for the extension of the tram line to Newhaven. What is presented to us is not a civic vision or a new, exciting expansion to our world-famous places. It is an engineering project that attempts to subjugate Leith Walk to meet engineering needs, many of which are ill-defined.

Pedestrians First

The Principle – All journeys begin and end with the pedestrian.  The civic vision for the tram completion must be about improving the environment for the pedestrian.  It must contribute to enhancing Leith Walk in particular and Leith in general as a destination it is own right; a place to visit and shop and eat and drink.

  1. We regard the substantial proposed use of extension areas Pedestrian Deterrent Paving along the route as a symbol of the potential divisiveness of the currents design.  This element of the design is not conducive to supporting and maintaining the currents transverse movements across Leith Walk.  All tram journeys start and finish with a pedestrian journey.  Therefore, pedestrians, rather than trams or other modes of transport, need to be at the centre of the tram extension designs.
  2. Attempts to force pedestrians into particular forms of behaviour are always unsatisfactory and rarely completely successful.  The starting point for this scheme must be a consideration of what pedestrians actually want to do. There is an urgent need for a new Pedestrian Modelling programme that can complement the current traffic modelling system.
  3. Looking at the existing tram line, and especially where the line runs down traditional streets, the tram tracks pose no significant barrier to cross -street movements, and no use of Pedestrian Deterrent Paving is made.  This includes Maitland Street and Shandwick Place which have many of the same characteristics of Leith Walk.  In our examination of other UK, EU and worldwide tram systems we simple do not see a similar extensive use of Pedestrian Deterrent Paving in dense urban areas.
  4. We regard the use of Pedestrian Deterrent Paving as wholly unacceptable.  It should be removed from the proposed designs and a better, world-class, pedestrian-centre approach implemented in its place.


The Principle – The introduction of safe cycling infrastructure must complement a civic design led strategy, and blend seamlessly with pedestrian spaces.  Cross movements in Leith Walk must be created, allowing cyclists to move not only up and down the street, but transversely as well.

  1. Several sections along Leith Walk currently indicate areas where cyclists and pedestrians will have to share space prior to crossing the road. Where this arrangement is already in place along the current tram route it does not work well and should not be replicated along the proposed route.  We believe that the current proposals have the potential to generate unnecessary and unwanted pedestrian-cyclist conflicts, revision of the current proposals is required.
  2. We note that there is no cycle provision proposed (apart from red Advance Stop Zones) along Constitution Street and Ocean Drive.  Given the nature of the current population of Leith, the aspirations for further population growth and the expanding student population of the area, this is clearly unacceptable.
  3. We consider that the absence of a meaningful cycle-parking facility at the Newhaven terminus is a significant missed opportunity to support sustainable travel choices

Parking and Loading

The Principle – the functionality of Leith Walk as a commercial, leisure and cultural quarter must be supported through reasonable provision of spaces. The Greenways scheme eliminated unnecessary vehicles and created opportunities for others who had a need to use a vehicle to come to Leith Walk.

  1. We are concerned that future functionality and economic vitality of the street will be limited by a reduction in on-street parking, disabled parking and loading bays.  Generally, parking is likely to be forced on to adjacent streets which are already congested by residential parking. This is unlikely to be workable.
  2. The lack of disabled parking on Leith Walk is a concern and should be further considered in consultation with appropriate stakeholder representatives. The lack of pedestrian crossing points in the current design make this issue much more significant.
  3. Loading bay provision seems limited and inappropriate to the needs of the many small businesses along Leith Walk.  In some areas, particularly the Foot of Leith Walk, current proposals for loading bays and on-street cycle mean that commercial traffic and cyclists are likely to come into conflict.

Junctions and Crossings

The Principle (Junctions) – The main objective of junction design should to increase convenience, comfort and safety of all road users, while at the same time enhancing the efficient movement of all. We believe that active travel modes must, always, have priority in ‘High Street’ locations such as Leith Walk

The Principle (Crossings) – As a starting point, all existing pedestrian crossings should be maintained to allow Leith Walk to continue to function as a series of linear civic spaces that permit through movement but is not subjugated by it. There should be no reduction in the number of formal crossing places.  The interconnection of both sides of Leith Walk, in an open, unobstructed fashion, must be a fundamental objective of the proposals.

  1. We note that right-hand turns are allowed on several parts of the existing tram line. For example, at Lothian Road and North St Andrews Street. We therefore see no justification for the elimination of existing right-hand turns along Leith Walk.
  2. As a rule, we believe that no existing vehicular, cycling or pedestrian movements should be compromised at junctions.  This reflects the importance of junctions to the vitality of street life, the need to reduce or avoid undesirable traffic movements and the objective of maintaining the ‘legibility’ of the city’s streetscape.
  3. In terms of pedestrian crossings, a key civic design objective for the tram route should be the retention of all existing pedestrian crossing points, with appropriate modifications, to integrate both sides of Leith Walk rather than promoting further community and commercial separation and segregation.
  4. As a general guide, we consider that the distance between crossing points along the route should be no greater than 100 metres. An analysis of pedestrian movements would be invaluable as would clarification of the average wait times at junctions is required.
  5. The quality and readability of the published draft designs for the tram extension is low.  On the proposed design for the section between Picardy Place and Union Street results in an unrelieved linear movement corridor with a distance of 200 metres between pedestrian crossings – the length of 2 football pitches.  If the published designs are correct.  This is an entirely unacceptable suggestion and one that must be revised.
  6. We must express our concern, in the strongest terms possible, that there appears to have been no in-depth study of current pedestrian movements along the proposed route of the tam extension, particularly along Leith Walk and adjacent streets.
  7. No information has been made available on the impact of the proposed extension of existing bus services.  This is a further impediment to reaching an informed understanding of how and where the public will want to cross the tram route in the future.
  8. Historically, a great deal of commercial development and community activity has focused around Leith’s major street junctions.  If this is to remain the case then effective and efficient crossing points, where people require them to be, are essential to the continuing functionality of the street.


The Principle – Leith Walk is one of the most diverse and dynamic streets in Edinburgh, with a range of shops, restaurants, and businesses seen nowhere else.  The tram project must create an environment that increases the vitality and vibrancy, and prevents the segmentation of one side from the other.  

  1. We welcome the fact that some support will be made available to mitigate the effects of the construction process on 400+ small businesses along the proposed route. However, we are aware of concerns that current levels of proposed support will not be adequate to ensure the survival of many small businesses along Leith Walk throughout the construction period. The unique nature of thee Leith Walk business community must be protected and sustained.


The Principle – A core objective of the scheme should be the creation of a linear “piazza” or “piazzas” of linked destinations akin to the Royal Mile, where the floorscape facilitates a civic agenda rather than seeking to prevent it (as the current scheme does). No physical barriers to cross-movement across the Walk should be implemented.

  1. Looking at other tram schemes which operative within a similar urban context, for example in Antwerp.  It is clear to us that Edinburgh has a real opportunity to introduce a unified floorscape that signals the treatment of Leith Walk as a single place.  We reiterate that Pedestrian Deterrent Paving has no role to play in this.
  2.  Current proposals for public realm rejuvenation and landscaping seem unambitious, vague and poorly defined. We would urge the Council to be more ambitious, particularly in its use of larger semi-mature street trees to create an immediate aesthetic impact and to facilitate adaptation to a changing local climate.
  3. Given the poor air quality suffered in the city centre.  It is appropriate to consider the incorporation of ‘living walls’ and ‘living roofs’ into trams stops and other tram infrastructure as has been done in other major UK and EU cities.  It would also be opportune to redesign the bus stops along the proposed route to introduce ‘living walls’ and ‘living roofs’ and to generally improve lines of viability across a more complicated roadway.

The Consultation Process

The Principle – ‘Consultation’ is not ‘Announcing’.  The Cockburn Association is not alone in considering that the Council’s ‘Consultations’ increasing consist of little more than telling people about what the Council plans to do with little really opportunity for citizens to influence proposed plans in a meaningful way and at an appropriate stage of development.

  1. Although the Public Consultation document describes conditions at various points along the route, Leith Walk is the one area which is entirely omitted. There is no indication of what principles, other than a purely engineering solution, were applied in developing the design. These should be spelled out to demonstrate that they have been considered.

Factors which should be taken into account include

  • Pedestrians given priority along the route, with adequate width pavements and crossings
  • A continuous (but not oversized) two-way cycle route along one side
  • Short stay parking (e.g. half-an-hour) to acknowledge the loading/customer needs of the many small businesses which line the street
  • Trams to have exclusive use at all times of their reservation (or perhaps share with buses). Allowing general traffic to use it completely negates the advantage of the tram system in not being caught up in general congestion.
  1. The present exercise comes over as simply a “this is what we are doing” information assignment rather than as genuine public consultation, in which views received will be assessed, tested, and if worthwhile, incorporated into the final scheme. This mirrors the approach taken in the recent Picardy Place “consultation”. This is a pity, because the proposal has merit and, if done correctly and carrying public and business confidence and support with it, would be a considerable asset to the city.

Policy Statement

  1. We Consider that the current proposals are neither consistent with the Council’s own sustainable transport policies nor with best sustainable travel policy and practice. Rather, they are an engineering-led solution driven by the requirements of the tram.

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