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More on the problem

If the tram project had been paused at Haymarket in order to rethink and reconfigure the on-road sections then, we would not be facing any pollution increase, and no extra health risks whatsoever, because there is no uncontrolled traffic displacement.

But every foot beyond Haymarket into and across the heart of the city increases the pollution cost and the health impacts because it displaces more and more traffic.

That 139,500 households figure--in the Council's initial report --- is more than half the city.

So the tram project will make air pollution worse in more streets than it will improve.

This report in 2003 didn't make an error in saying this, and nor did they make it up.

Of course things have changed since 2003, far less on-road tramway is being built for one thing,and we certainly recognise this; the council make much of a second report in 2006 with different figures.

Some of the  simple questions that simply never get answered are:

  • In the 2003 plan the 139,500 was the best figure available, over half the city, why did this knowledge not trigger a more detailed investigation and initiate detailed environment and health impact studies...... if the mindset then was to ignore it,is that still the mindset?
  • The trend figures on pollution are now rising far above the level indicated in both these reports...yet the response was to deny data and block requests for information.

 

In all the past reports many predictions have simply collapsed.

  • Leith waterfront development crashed and far from a development providing the passengers for the tram Forth Ports are planning light eningeering and a large biomass plant following an 80% drop in land values.  The massives residential developments are no ublikely ever to built in the numbers envisaged.
  • In the last few weeks the Business Case that in the 2006 report was given as 1:1.10, £1.10p of value for every £1 spent for the LIne 1a from Gogar to Newhaven, or just above parity, has collapsed again with the revelation that the passenger figures of 10million had collapsed to 5.4 million, just over half, the cost of a much shorter line has more than doubled yet the most recently published BCR is more than 1:2.2!

Last month the 'Southern Arc' proposals have been released to the press and while many aims are laudable, as with many CEC projects including the tram; and while much is made of the benefits of taking road space away from vehicles in favour of pedestrians and cyclists etc--nowhere does it mention where the displaced traffic is expected to go?

Bizarrely as major figures within the Council continue to block and deny the residents claims that increased traffic poses a real threat this plan freely admits the dangers of traffic created pollution and the major pollutants contained within it: Nitrogen Dioxide and Particulate matter.

The blase release of the document without any sense of irony highlights the Council's disjointed approach.

The fact that plans like this, and the far larger tram project that clearly force traffic off city centre roads, continue to be published with no regards to where that traffic will go to complete the journeys, is at the heart of the matter.

 

The Council profess concern but try and portray groups in neighbourhoods who are beginning to realise traffic is mysteriously increasing, as isolated, small groups of moaning minnies and Nimbys.  Unable to see the wood for their own selfish trees.

The Council have gone on the record recently saying they held back air pollution data because 'this group of residents (ourselves) would only misuse it' .

That we were using pollution as a means to spread alarm amongst citizens. 

This was done without any sense of irony by the administration-- they really believe that they are being oppressed by a group of people who in their spare time are trying to bring a reasonable issue to public debate.

The problem for all the 1139,000+ households in the initial report wasn't going to begin on day one of the Tram inauguration in 2010 but  was expected to get worse and worse over a period of time through to 2026.

So this is a problem that will not start on the first day the tram's begin running but will grow and grow AFTER the tram begins running, the leading people in the Council seem to have lost sight of this. 

The council have never yet admitted openly, and spelled out to people, the extent to which the tram system will require the roadway sections to be emptied of traffic and intersections crossing it to be very carefully controlled as to the time that can be allowed for traffic to cross.

We have even heard the idea from some Council Officers that  the present groups complaining cannot be helped, because to do 'so would only shift the problem to someone else's doorstep'.

Of course this is a deeply cynical tyhing tyo say, as this thought didn't stop these same officials, or their predecessors and colleagues, from burying the fact that helping their pet project meant transferring the problem they are now creating to the doorsteps of potentially around 300,000 other people. 

This view, that we have heard many times expressed as " if we get helped -  then what about the traffic starting to bung up Leith, or Inverleith, or rises for people living around the Meadows, Pleasance, Bruntsfield and many, many other places?? --  this is used to  justify continuing inaction, and shoulder shrugging reactions from officials.

This is cynical as they  well understand that these rises are effects from the single and same problem;  the problem they are continuing to work to create..

Trams are a very effective public transport solution, but only if the project in which they sit is properly managed. 

Our project has been colossally mismanaged, and we cfeel that the inability to connect the dots of massive displacement of traffic from uninhabited commerical thoroughfares along with the pollution created, into residential streets is a facet of the same blinkered attitudes that created such problems in the financial areas of the project.

Unlike the financial mismanagement however any problems in respect of unnecessarily increased health impacts will be far more difficult to 'fix'.