June 2024

Granton Tramline: #SpokesMtg Report

Our Spokes public meeting on the proposed Granton tramline extension was jammed, with the hall at capacity, the gallery opened, and 20 or more latecomers still having to be turned away – over 200 in total! Whilst many issues were raised, the future of the Roseburn walking/cycling path was the top issue raised in discussion, with many in the audience seemingly unconvinced that any form of path would remain if the tram uses the Roseburn route.

pic: David Somervell

The Council proposes to build a new tramline, Granton to Bioquarter. Our packed-out meeting tackled the controversy over whether the northern section should use the Roseburn path (a former rail line) or an onroad route, probably via Orchard Brae and Dean Bridge, with passionate speakers for each case, plus commentary on the cycling implications and on population health assessments, and a wide ranging QA.

There is a full video of the event here [thanks to Sam Wheldon-Bayes] and there are other resources at the end of this article.

We were delighted that two councillors turned up to listen – Cllr Chas Booth (Green, Leith, a Spokes member) and Cllr Ross McKenzie (Independent, Sighthill/Gorgie).

Public Consultation

The Council consultation on both options (and on the continuation to BioQuarter) has been postponed until late summer or early autumn. This meant that many questions, such as the design of a tramside path, or the impact of a road-based tramline on cycling safety, could only be speculated about. However, we understand that the reason for the consultation delay is partly so that it can be much more detailed than previously envisaged – thus, for example, we expect it to cover issues such as path width and path treatment at bridges if the tram uses Roseburn, and onroad cycleroute details if the tram is onroad.

Spokes has not expressed a preference between the options, but, whichever option the Council selects, we will lobby for cycling and walking provision to be of high quality – both onroad and on the Roseburn route.

Roseburn path or Orchard Brae, the two alternatives.. Transport Committee report 1 Feb 2024, fig 3.2


Lesley Hinds, former Transport Convener and a 40-year resident of North Edinburgh, centred her argument for the tram using Roseburn around the climate crisis, with transport now being Scotland’s largest source of climate emissions. Edinburgh has seen a huge traffic rise over the years; Granton is Scotland’s largest regeneration project meaning rapid growth in population and employment; and quality mass transit is therefore essential to keep people from using car.

Compared to the onroad route, the Roseburn option is more reliable and significantly quicker in operation, with no congestion or other traffic problems, and with reliability and timing being big factors in people’s choice of travel mode.

In terms of construction, the onroad option would bring all the utility problems experienced in previous tram phases, whilst some issues, such as the narrow Dean Bridge viaduct and the complex West End junction, might render this route impossible.

As regards active travel, the 2006 tram plans (which didn’t get funded for this section) had received Parliamentary and Council formal approval, including the Roseburn route with an adjacent walk/cycle path as an integral part of the project – showing that such a path is perfectly feasible. For an officer report in 2024 to suggest ‘discouraging’ (though not banning) cycling, was “appalling” and had got people uptight quite unnecessarily – it is councillors who make the decisions.

Euan Baxter, of the Save Roseburn Path group, fully accepted that an effective mass transit system from Granton is essential, but argued that, whilst there may have been arguments for using the Roseburn route in 2006, it was not the answer today.

A tram should take car space, not green space. Putting a tram through a local park does not align with Edinburgh’s strategic goals of reducing inequalities and mitigating the risks of climate change

Urban greenspace is already under threat, and to remove this nature corridor would be shocking and unnecessary, particularly given the growing evidence of its benefits for physical and mental health. In terms of social inclusion it would also be removing a local park from the people of Drylaw and Telford.

In terms of climate, the corridor is a contributor to the city’s climate ambitions, absorbing CO2 and helping reduce flooding through rainwater absorption, both of which would be reduced by reduction in greenspace.

Furthermore, there was not a cast-iron guarantee that an adjacent path would be included, and yet the Roseburn path is a key connection in Edinburgh’s cycle network.

In terms of tram patronage, the onroad route passes through a greater population than does the old railway and so would be most effective onroad. Euan referenced the 2021 Jacobs-Steer Edinburgh Strategic Sustainable Transport Study Phase 2 report in support of this.

Alex Robb, of Spokes Planning Group, presented the pros and cons for cycling of the two options – there are clear pros and cons for both. [These were also laid out in this Spokes website article so will mainly be skipped here].

It was essential for the tram and associated active travel infrastructure to be of high quality, particularly given likely further tram expansion within the city and to the Lothians in future years.

If the tram uses Roseburn, then a top concern from the cycling perspective is the quality of the adjacent walk/cycle path – will it be too narrow and with significant pinch points? Furthermore, will the Council provide a genuinely quality alternative during the lengthy construction period – the Newhaven tramline experience, with the Foot of the Walk to Ocean Terminal promised path still awaited, is very concerning.

However, if the tram is onroad the tramlines are “fundamentally dangerous” for cycling, as shown by Edinburgh’s first line, which has seen literally hundreds of tramline cycling injuries, and, sadly, a death (at the West End junction).

Adrian Davis, Professor of Transport and Health, Edinburgh Napier University explained how a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) could work, to assess the population health impacts, positive and negative, of either option.

It would come up with recommendations, not just to decide between options, but also to maximise positive health effects and minimise negative effects, whichever option is chosen by the Council

A long-term perspective is essential for the HIA, not just looking at the immediate impacts. For example, society is building up a long-term legacy of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and other diseases, due to the growth in physical inactivity, and a world which encourages this.

The World Health Organisation has produced extensive materials on the purposes and implementation of HIAs.


For the second hour of the meeting, the four speakers formed a panel, which was chaired by Johanna BoydScottish solicitor specialised in planning and local government law, CEO of Planning Aid Scotland, and former leader of Stirling Council.

Below is not a direct report of the QA. For that, listen to the full recording. Instead, we pick up on some of the main topics raised, and we also add additional answers/ comments.

As mentioned earlier, until the consultation comes out, there is much uncertainty and speculation, which made some of the discussion difficult. The fact of such uncertainties and misunderstandings was highlighted in an interesting Edinburgh Reporter article about the meeting.

If tram uses Roseburn, will there be a walk/cycle path?

  • Whilst it is correct that no 100% cast-iron guarantee has been given at this early pre-consultation stage (as on every aspect of the project) all the evidence points to a path being included in the project…
  • The 2006 tram scheme, which was approved by Parliament and Edinburgh Council, though never funded, included an adjacent path as an integral part of the project – showing that it is feasible
  • Every relevant council report has included an adjacent path as part of the project. Even the report which mentioned ‘discouraging’ cycling did not mention banning it – and the Transport Committee then voted for a far more positive approach to cycling
  • * Note that several of the concerns raised in questions appear to be based on an assumption that there will be no path; whereas such concerns are either removed or reduced by the inclusion of the path. We have marked such issues with an asterisk. *

What will a tram-side path be like?

  • The February Transport Committee report talked of 3m width – the same width as the existing path – Lesley Hinds said it was ‘appalling’ that this report then talked of ‘discouraging’ cycling, and the decision was for councillors not officers. She also pointed out that safety would be improved with the tram, many people currently being scared to use the path in the dark.
  • The Union Canal towpath is much narrower, yet is a well used shared-use path. Of course, its width is problematic, but shows that 3m is certainly feasible – the questioner called it “a motorway” in comparison
  • Clearly there would be width problems at some bridges, but solutions are possible – including tram single-track working at some locations, path narrowing at others, and possibly some bridge rebuilding. Such details are expected to be in the public consultation. Meanwhile, some Spokes members with engineering expertise are looking into the possibilities.

Loss of greenspace, wildlife, etc

  • Apart from whether or not there will be a path, greenspace preservation was probably the second-highest concern amongst questioners
  • Greenspace brings climate benefits through CO2 absorption and as a rainwater sink
  • Wildlife in the corridor should be surveyed at an early stage
  • Although there will be replanting, clearly there will be very significant loss, especially in the first few years.

Mental health, etc

  • Access to greenspace is vital to physical and mental health; this should be part of a Health Impact Assessment
  • * There is a lot of human interaction on the path; this is very positive for individuals and community, and must be maintained

Concerns re bike tramline crashes

  • There have been many bike tramline crashes on the roads (literally hundreds of victims have visited A&E since Edinburgh’s first tramline was opened) and one tragic death
  • * Tramline bike crashes will not apply to a path on the Roseburn route since a low barrier and/or buffer strip is expected between the path & tramlines (also to prevent dogs etc straying); and because there will be no traffic pressures at points where it is necessary to cross the tramlines, so a good crossing angle can be used. Note that Spokes has received no reports at all of tramline crashes on Leith Walk where the cycle paths are physically separate from the tramlined roadway.
  • * One questioner was ‘terrified’ cycling over Dean Bridge as it is, let alone with tramlines, but wanted to be sure an adjacent path would be provided if the tram uses Roseburn.

Roseburn to Canal

  • * A costly path extension from Roseburn to Fountainbridge and the Union Canal (including new bridges) is nearly complete – this would lose much of its value if the tram uses Roseburn and there was no path

Why a tram rather than better buses?

  • People who raised this largely agreed that some form of significantly improved public transport was essential, both to keep people out of car and to cope with the rapidly growing population and employment opportunities in Granton area
  • Tram on a car-free alignment has much higher reliability than onroad solutions, and reliability is important in people’s choice of travel mode
  • Tram has much higher capacity and speed of boarding
  • Research shows that many people who would not normally use a bus instead of their car will use a tram

Tram patronage on Roseburn v. Orchard Brae

  • Some argued that the onroad route goes through higher population density, so would have the highest ridership
  • On the other hand, the Roseburn route includes direct links to West Edinburgh and the airport (with eastward and westward connections where it meets the existing line) and to Haymarket station; whereas the onroad route connects at the West End (where eastward connection only is possible) meaning changing trams for the west, and no adjacent rail connection. These connections are important given the employment opportunities and population growth from the massive Granton Regeneration project.

Why not another road route, or new thinking?

  • Some people questioned why Orchard Brae had been chosen as the only onroad route; and one suggested more imaginative solutions such as a new pedestrian/cycle (and tram?) bridge across the valley. As this is such a costly project, all options should be considered
  • No one offered an answer, but presumably there were preliminary studies which then homed in on these two solutions. Even the 2021 Jacobs Steer report does not explain why this was the (only) onroad option now being considered – we would be happy to include a link here if anyone knows relevant earlier background. However, it seems unlikely that the Council would now revert to that earlier stage given the time and effort that has already gone into developing the Roseburn and Orchard Brae options.


What you can do

  • Once the consultation comes out (probably late summer or autumn) please do take part. As always, Spokes will keep our members in touch with what is happening and when to respond.
  • Retweet our tweet about this article.

Thank you – to all our speakers, organisers and everyone who came along!

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