Who are the tram opponents?

It is true to say that many people do not want trams, and they are very vocal.

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This post on the Evening News website under a story about the second Forth road bridge costing in excess of £1 billion sums up a lot (but not all) of their thinking:

“If a report had come out stating that the proposed trams for Edinburgh were going to cost more than £1 billion, by now there would have been dozens of postings expressing screeching outrage. But so far not a peep. If any proof were needed that the anti-tram brigade are all car drivers who grudge any money being spent on public transport, but don’t mind how many millions are wasted on environmentally damaging roads and bridges, this is it”.

But there is more to it than that.

The anti-tram lobby can be split into two:

  1. those that have genuine arguments against them, and propose sensible alternatives, such as people who propose trolley buses
  2. those that are just against them for whatever reason and seize on any argument against them (hence all the myths that keep being printed as seen on this site)

There is also another category, that of people who have concerns about some aspects of the proposals, but accept that the greater good outweighs these. For example, Spokes, the cycle campaign, were/are deeply concerned about the loss of cycle facilities on the Roesburn corridor. They are still not that convinced about the replacements. The same applies on Princes Street. However, they are right behind the trams as they see the greater good of improved public transport.

Category 2 (above) are in the majority amongst tram opponents, and usually flatly contradict each other making it very hard to debate with them. For example, some people say that the trams should use the old railway lines (which is a viable option in many places, hence the routes chosen), but then others go mental at the thought of all the badgers that would die.

Some say that trolley buses are a better alternative because they too use electricity, others scream about the fact that trams won’t reduce pollution because, err, they still use electricity.

Some people are convinced that the trams will require continual public subsidy (despite all the predictions to the contrary) and then campaign vigorously for changes to the route that would decrease passenger numbers and so ensure continual public subsidy (such as those who want it to direct to the Western General – this is a laudable aim, and in an ideal world it would, but not it in a political environment that does not allow continued public subsidy).

Some claim to be concerned solely with the cost to the taxpayer, but say absolutely nothing about other grossly-over prices schemes, such as the M74 (each of the 5 miles will costs over £100 million – makes the tram seem a bargain).

And then there is the SNP who were once vocal in supporting trams, and then totally changed their minds. They rubbished things like the guided busways, and now they propose those as alternatives.

And many people even deny there is a congestion problem! In which case there is not even any point having a debate at all.

When the Eiffel Tower was built, the people of Paris were up in arms. There were demonstrations. Can you imagine what would happen now if the mayor of Paris proposed knocking it down? Neither can I!

Politicians have to take difficult and long term decisions based on serious evidence from those who know what they are talking about. Strategic long term transport planning is a professional occupation. The detail of our transport plans should not be dictated by a small vocal minority.

Not everyone can have their own way. Personally, I would have chosen slightly different routes for the tram. But at the end of the day, because my changes were not taken on board, I am not going to throw my toys out of the pram and object to the whole scheme.

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