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Glamour and envy

on Mon, 10/07/2013 - 09:30

The recent article in which Edinburgh's trams were painted as 'The Envy of Europe' because of the glamour of the stretch from the Airport to York Place is instructive -- in respect of the bancruptcy of ideas for an administration and 'tramstablishment' increasingly desperate to find any justification for their scheme from a rapidly diminishing range of possibilities.

Leaving aside the headline that asserts the 'envy of Europe' as a present and existing fact, when even the writer, Prof Harvie, only puts it up as a 'potential'; although that may not be any sinister framing of the debate by the Scotsman so much as the kind of error that ever reducing staff levels tend to lead to at ever more deserted subs desks; this kind of screeching hyperbole has been thuddingly familiar throughout the project.

It contrsats with the reality that the nearer we get to opening day the less we have in the way of any factual justifications being offered for the past, present and, sadly, ongoing disaster the project has been, is and will continue to be.

Instead, as in this article we are left with nothing but the echoes of that hubristic hyperbole that has been such an un-Edinburgh like feature of the whole thing.

Now, like the grin of the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, the last piece of justificatory effort left hanging in the air after the everything else, is the hyperbole and hubristic spin.

The  inconvenient and factual truths that are no longer mentioned:

  • Increasingtraffic congestion bringing the noise, disruption, pollution and danger to more and more residential streets: Not inevitable traffic increases yet to be tackled by our dynamic council--but predicted and avoidable increases caused by our council's blind allegiance to a flawed tram plan.
  • The huge opportunity costs that will continue for the next three years, and be measured by the £25M a year (or is it £30M) costs of financing the final pay day loan that the council were strong-armed into taking by Holyrood in 2011.  
  • The continuing incomptence, or negligence -- or worse-- in project management that means the exact losses every year are still unclear, partly because they are constantly being covered up: For example the way a £2.5M a year 'opearting contribution' asserted confidently in a key  report to councillors in 2011, that became less than 2 years an era of low inflation and with no material major changes to the conditions of the tram's operation...a £3M a year loss (at least).

These are just some of the facts to weigh against the kind of brittle argument of the tram's supposed glamour however much this may overawe the simple minded Europeans visiting the city.

Indeed the 'Glamour of the Trams', as presented in the article is a two edged sword of course - less the grin of a Cheshire Cat of a fact-lite justification, and more a leer.

The glamour of the Edinburgh route depends on the visual appeal of the route out of Shandwick Place and up Princes Street to St Andrews Square, not even the most fervent fan of Edinburgh would advance the description of the section from the Bypass along the industrial estates, suburbs and Business Parks as being one 'glamour' likely to be the envy of any part of Europe.  

It isn't a terrible run but it just isn't terribly glamorous

However there may be a danger, that glamorous as the view from Princes Street will be, even for those tired visitors distracted by having to wrestle with baggage and, possibly, small children  , there may be a danger other cities could well try and usurp our title of 'most glamorous', and make them the object of our gnawing envy!

For example all the Pope needs to do is build a tram around St Peters Square, the Parisians send one along the garden infront of the Eiffel Tower to cut through it's base, President Obama respond by taking a tram from the Washington Monument on a track over the lake and around the Capitol Building through the White House grounds, and the Indian Government build one that goes over the ornemental pool and around the Taj Mahal and where would our claim to world leading glamour be then?.

Although on reflection I think we're probably going to be OK.

It's hard to see the people responsible for those cities and monuments being lured by the prospect of creating the most glamorous tram route in the world by grievously damaging  the view itself in the process, and it's appeal for the very much greater number of people not trundling ON the tram but trying to find a viewpoint not obscured by either the tram itself or it's wires and poles.

Lets hope the Council don't get enthusiastic about creating the most glamorously sited household waste recycling plant in Europe --- while I think recycling is a brilliant idea, I do like Princes Street Gardens just fine as they are now.


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