February 2024

Roseburn path tramline?

There is much controversy over the Granton-Roseburn section of the proposed tramline from Granton to Bioquarter. In particular, will it be onroad or on the Roseburn path? In both cases, what provision will there be for cycling? What is the Spokes position?

First, the consultation has not yet begun. It is probably some weeks away, and is expected to last for 12 weeks, so we cannot be definitive at this stage.

Second, thanks in part to a short but very intensive Spokes campaign, the consultation is expected to be much more positive on cycling aspects than had seemed likely before the amendments at the Transport Committee. Thank you if you contacted your councillors.


Spokes has always supported cycling “as part of an environmentally sustainable transport and access strategy” not purely cycling for its own sake. We are very supportive of public transport, walking, wheeling, reduced car use, and reducing the climate-crisis impacts of transport.

It is also worth remembering that, although Spokes has around 1000 members, many of whom are sufficiently concerned about cycling conditions that they lobby their councillors, our influence is pretty limited when it comes to the basics of huge decisions such as whether, where or when to build a tramline. However, we can certainly hope to achieve improvements to how cycling is treated within any scheme.

Given all the above, Spokes has always engaged with the Council to try to ensure that if a tram is built along Roseburn path, then there is high quality cycle/walk provision alongside. We had extensive discussions in the early 2000s, when tram plans reached the planning application stage (although eventually only Airport to City Centre was built). Those plans and a tramline design manual are here [paras 0712 and 0601]. For example, this drawing showing a path cantilevered against the Water of Leith viaduct (although single-track tramline is another option at that location).

The path is already very well used for cycle journeys. The automatic counter near the Coltbridge viaduct counted roughly 340,000 trips (in either direction) in 2023, i.e. on average nearly 1000 journeys per day on the Roseburn path.

Tramline to Granton – the proposals

Two options are being presented for linking Granton Waterfront (where a new urban centre with 3000 homes is planned) to the existing tramline, also via the Western General Hospital…

  • Tram onroad, via Crewe Road South, Orchard Brae, Dean Bridge, joining the existing line eastbound at the West End; retaining the Roseburn path unchanged
  • Tram (partly) offroad, using the Roseburn path south from Telford Road bridge, with eastbound and westbound connections to the existing tramline at Russell Road. A 3m walking, wheeling, cycling path would be included beside the tram [obviously there is no detailed specification at this stage, but see comments below]

There are many arguments between tram onroad and offroad, which go beyond purely the question of cycling, and Spokes must consider these in addition to our particular emphasis on the purely cycling issues. It is not a simple choice.

The top Spokes concern is that, whichever route is chosen by the Council, safe and quality cycling provision is essential.

Both the two previous tramline projects were essentially “design a tramline then try to fit everything else in.” This is a really serious point. Not just for the obvious problems with cycle & walk provision on Leith Walk, but because, in our view, the layout in particular of the original line has resulted in literally hundreds of tramline bike crash injuries, many of them serious injuries. In test cases, the courts have agreed.* This time we need a holistic approach, ensuring that all sustainable modes are part of the one project.

*More on this in para 1906 here.

Note that all the points below are based on what we know before the consultation comes out.

Official +ve & -ve arguments for offroad tram [pre-consultation]

The main arguments put forward in the TEC report include..

  • Offroad tram gives quicker journeys and fewer hold-ups, which will result in higher patronage, in turn contributing to car-use reduction (particularly for journeys to/from the west) and more profitable operation
  • Construction costs would probably be lower, though this might be partly offset by the costs of a high quality alternative onroad cycleroute [high quality would be difficult – see our comments below]
  • Offroad provides a new public transport corridor, whereas the road route is already well served by buses
  • It also provides a better connection to the west since trams from Granton will be able to turn east or west at Russell Road, whereas the onroad option would mean changing trams at the West End if you wish to travel west
  • It provides better rail interchange, passing through Haymarket, whereas the onroad tram misses Haymarket (and no tram stop is equally convenient for Waverley)
  • Offroad tram is negative for ecology and amenity
  • Offroad tram would make it harder to cater for cycling, but a high quality onroad alternative is envisaged [but see our comments below]
+ve & -ve impacts on cycling with onroad tram [Spokes comments]
  • Clearly the huge benefit is that Roseburn path remains untouched
  • Also, there is a strong argument that new sustainable travel options should use car space, thus providing both carrot and stick towards the Council’s car-use reduction targets
  • However onroad tram would also bring significant negatives for cycling…
  • Given the width of many of the affected roads, it would be hard to incorporate quality cycle facilities as well as tram – particularly at junctions and at Dean Bridge
  • Thus there would be more bike/tramline interactions, with resulting crashes and injuries
  • In particular, the West End junction, where there has already been a tramline-related death would become even more difficult to make safe and attractive for cycling, with a tramline coming in from Queensferry Street and bending round to join the existing line
  • Quite apart from the tramlines, an onroad cycleroute alternative includes the very steep Orchard Brae, and the Committee report says that the cycleroute quality would “get worse towards Haymarket” [table 4.2 in Appendix 2].
+ve & -ve impacts on cycling with offroad tram [Spokes comments]
  • Clearly cycling amenity on the Roseburn path will be less with an adjacent tramline, although cycling will not be banned. However…
  • A group of Spokes members with landscape and structural engineering expertise is preparing a submission on how cycling can be cost-effectively catered for as well as possible on the adjacent walk/wheel/cycle path (which the Council promises to be 3m wide). As mentioned in ‘Background’ above, the previous tramline planning application included such a path. Following the decisions at 1.2.24 TEC, we assume the Council will be considering cycling positively here, rather than ‘discouraging’ it.
  • Despite the above, cycling conditions are unlikely to be as good as now, e.g. with some possible pinch points. Given that the path is part of the remarkable ~4mile cross-city North Edinburgh Network, Leith to Roseburn (and soon to the canal) with no at-grade road crossings, it would be a significant loss if cycling conditions were seriously downgraded here
  • The adjacent tram will increase passive surveillance (tram drivers, passengers, CCTV, etc), so making the path safer from anti-social behaviour and assault
  • It will be easier for the Council to provide good onroad cycle facilities on roads which would otherwise have tramlines, though with Dean Bridge, Orchard Brae, etc, it is hard to see an ideal solution even without tramlines
  • However, there will be a long construction period – assurances would be needed that a quality cycle connection linking the North Edinburgh Network to Roseburn and to the new connection to the Canal will be built before the Roseburn route is closed for construction.*

*Experience with Trams to Newhaven makes us wary on this – trams have been running for months, yet work on the Foot of Walk to Ocean Terminal cycleroute, due to open when trams began, has not even begun!

Spokes has emailed the Council asking that the consultation includes as much detail as possible on what cycle facilities would be provided, both onroad and offroad, in either case of tram onroad or offroad, as well as during tramline construction.

Although cycling is our main concern, and where we can make the greatest contribution to ideas (onroad or offroad), it is important to consider all the above arguments and impacts, not just cycling. The Council will certainly be doing so.

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