Transport chiefs in Edinburgh are mulling over a new ‘hybrid’ option for the city’s next tram line incorporating two previously considered routes – which would see tracks laid across the historic Dean Bridge.
The route would include using part of the old railway path between Roseburn and Granton, intended to be line ‘1b’ in the first project before that section was scrapped, but would diverge toward Orchard Brae so it could serve the Western General Hospital before continuing north to Granton.
Under this proposal a line would also loop back to the city centre by crossing the Dean Bridge, which would require single track running and traffic restrictions.
The public are set to be asked for their views in a consultation launching early next year.
The ‘1b’ line along the Roseburn Path, now an active travel corridor, was already approved for use by the Scottish Government prior to it being dropped amid rising costs in 2009. This previously made it the most obvious choice for a north-south extension.
However last year another option preferred by council officials emerged, through Orchard Brae and Crewe Toll, which would avoid the loss of the Roseburn Path and “may connect better for people,” transport convener Scott Arthur said then.
He said this week: “The two routes on the table are going down what is the Roseburn cycle path or essentially going down Orchard Brae.”
He added: “A kind of hybrid option between the two has been raised.
“The kind of things we looked at were making sure we have a good connection to Craigleith Retail Park and also the key thing was having a good connection to the hospital.
“If we were to do a wholly Roseburn route it doesn’t give us a good connection to the hospital so that’s one of the things that’s driving thinking just now.
“It means we’d have to take it off at some point, maybe around the retail park, to get it closer to the hospital because I think it’s really important we get that good connection.”
Cllr Arthur said routing trams through Orchard Brae would create a”Leith Walk situation” where there would be a desire to “keep buses, have good active travel and have trams”.
He added: “Quite a lot of traffic goes up there just now.
“Even if we look at just essential traffic – so traffic for the hospital and traffic to the properties on that road – there’s still a lot of movement.
“So we’re back to a Leith Walk situation when we’re trying to do too much with not enough space.”
However he admitted having an “emotional attachment” to Dean Bridge and had reservations about that part of the plan.
“I would hate to see anything happen to that that detracted from the benefits it provides,” he said.
“I think it would have to go down to single running when we were looking at it to get it across. The two tram lines would have to coalesce there.
“Obviously it’s a listed structure and I would hate to see the overhead pylons across it, personally.”
Cllr Arthur said the Roseburn Path remained “quite attractive” because there is “already a rail bed there of some shape or form that can be built on”.
He said there would be a “like for like” replacement of active travel provision lost through the use of the former railway line.
Deviating from the ‘1b’ route approved in 2006 would require plans to go back to the Scottish Parliament which would take up to two years, however this process could be carried out in parallel to other work to prepare for construction to begin.
Cllr Arthur has previously said the north-south extension will open will open in 2035 “at the very latest”.