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Edinburgh’s Tram Works

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Edinburgh’s traffic

I have heard recently that Edinburgh is the seventh most congested city in Europe. This, as anyone who has attempted to drive through Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, Bristol (none of which are in the top six) and several other UK cities will testify, this is complete, unadulterated, arrant nonsense. And what about Madrid? Rome? Paris? They don’t even figure in the top six. If you want traffic jams, try these cities, don’t pick on Edinburgh. Is it possible that these statistics were compiled at some time in the last two years, when Edinburgh’s centre was jammed solid with cars as a result of snarl-ups caused by the tram works?

Ah…! So let’s get it right. Edinburgh is NOT the seventh worst city in Europe for traffic jams. It was for a while, and there was a reason. It is not now. At a guess, it is way down the league table, I’m guessing around number twenty (on a par with Aberdeen and Amsterdam).

Believe me, after having lived in Reading (20 years ago) and having had to commute into London twice a week, Edinburgh is a mere pussy-cat in the cat-house of traffic jams.

A SatNav firm provided these statistics. SatNavs are the things that do this.


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If you know Edinburgh, or have read Ian Rankin’s latest book The Complaints, you will know about the traffic chaos caused by the city’s trams. Well, not the trams themselves, because there aren’t any yet. It’s the disturbances caused by the road works. They can’t have anything beneath tram tracks, so before laying them they have to dig holes big enough to hide a bus in so they can reroute the water and gas mains, electricity and telephone cables and the sewers and drains. To complicate matters there are bricked-up cellars under some of the roads. Again, Rankin fans will know about these. The cellars should have come as no surprise to the planners, because in 1979 Princes Street was closed after the supporting legs of high scaffolding punched their way through to a cellar – though no doubt it did come as a surprise to the engineers in the site offices up on the scaffolding. The offices were left sticking up at an angle, like a ship on a very big wave. Been there. Seen that.

Talking of catastrophies befalling site offices, I have a tale to tell about that… 

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