The antics of councillors in Edinburgh, and their determination to inflict their vision on the city whether the people like it or not, would have put a smile on the face of Joe Stalin himself.
They’re now talking of spending another £165 million on extending the trams into Leith and Newhaven despite the five year delay and huge cost over-run in building the current line because of incompetence and fecklessness.
It may well be that tomorrow’s financial review from Chancellor George Osborne, detailing the next stage of his plans to severely slash more public services, will put an end to any tram extension because of the impact on local authority spending across the country.
Scotland’s councils are already warning that there’s a £500 million gap, even before there are any more cuts, but here are two other major factors to consider before we start to dig up the streets of Edinburgh again.
First is the need for the city to save £70 million, which includes dumping 2000 jobs over the next four years and scrapping important services such as school crossing patrols.
Second is that the inquiry into what went wrong with the trams, and why the project cost almost £800 million, is only getting started.
Lord Hardie has had to force witnesses to take part and after a year we don’t seem to be much further forward in getting to the truth; soon there may have to be an inquiry into the inquiry.
Every time Lesley Hinds, the city’s scary transport convenor goes on television news, we are told that the Edinburgh trams have been hugely successful although politicians know that if they say something often enough the public will soon come to accept their mutterings as fact.
Certainly, the trams seem popular but how many years will it take for them to make money when the majority of folk in Edinburgh have no use for them because they’re not going in their direction?
Edinburgh is a fast-growing city and over the next 25 years its population is expected to grow by a quarter so the idea of an environmentally friendly and effective transport system connecting the airport to the north of the city is very desirable.
But we already have a highly efficient transport system in Lothian Buses which are frequent, which turn up on time and which already connect every part of the city.
So have we the stomach to give free reign to those same councillors who approved the first tram fiasco and how do we pay for it when we just know that their current estimate of the cost will be way below the final bill?
The answer to all of these woes may well have been to have installed a trolley bus system which would have required only overhead lines and which therefore would have avoided the need to unearth Edinburgh’s main thoroughfares and cause all that misery.
But our city fathers knew better.
If we can’t afford school lollipop people then how can we justify spending another fortune to extend what was clearly a vanity project rather than a necessity?
Perhaps our councillors think that turning Edinburgh into party city is one way of raising the money hence this festive season the city centre attractions seem bigger than ever.
There is the pathetic Krystal Palace funfair, a Meet Santa rail track and the inevitable Ferris wheel dominating the south east area of Princes Street along with expensive mulled wine and German sausages.
Fair enough, visitors like to enjoy themselves and children are begging to be taken on the rides but put all this stuff somewhere in the city which is designed for play… a big park maybe.
It’s certainly not hard to imagine what the high-paying guests at the adjacent Balmoral or the old boys sipping their brandies in the New Club opposite think of it all.
AND HERE IT GETS PERSONAL…
The other council ploy is to keep raising the cost of car parking in the city centre, and the price of residents’ parking, despite the fact this will inevitably force motorists to abandon their vehicles leading to this source of revenue drying up.
My own residents’ parking ticket currently costs £449 a year which serves me right for having a car with a big engine. I don’t object to paying the money but I do object when I discover that the car has vanished.
It was neatly and legally parked at the West End on Thursday but the council came along on Friday and put up a yellow notice next to it declaring that this part of the road was to be “occupied” and that “illegally parked vehicles will be removed”
When I went to use the car on Saturday, a council wagon had got there first and had hauled it away without any attempt to let me know where. It took me half an hour to find it dumped several streets away.
How was I to know that they would want the space?
Couldn’t they have contacted the DVLC and put a note through my letter box only yards away letting me know where the car was?
If Edinburgh is now under despotic rule then just let me know and I will obey.
(If you enjoyed this, you’ll also want to read Ken Houston’s piece below on the plan to extract tram money from Lothian Buses).