I just discovered a recording from 2012 of an interview with Scottish crime author Ian Rankin at the Melbourne Crime and Justice Festival. The audio clip was sent to me by someone who’s aware of my interest in public transport policy, especially the controversial NSW Government plans to replace the heavy rail line with light rail in the Newcastle CBD. In one section of the interview Rankin talks about the issues Edinburgh residents have had with a council intent on foisting upon them an exorbitantly expensive, functionally limited, politically motivated tram line.
I thought the parallels with the current situation in Newcastle were very interesting.
Here’s Ian Rankin on light rail:
Edinburgh had a tram system until the late fifties and in the early sixties they ripped up the tram tracks and a few years ago they said “hey, let’s have some trams, that sounds like a very modern, positive thing to do”.
It was going to be fantastic, there was going to be a whole spurs of tram lines going off around the city. Then they found out oh that’s far too expensive, we’ll just have maybe a couple of lines. No, that’s far too expensive, we’ll just have one line. The one line will go from the airport to Princes Street. It will replicate a bus that already exists. But it will cost us $750 million pounds. The bus costs four pounds to take. This new line will cost us three quarters of a billion. It’s a joke, people in Edinburgh think it’s a joke.
They think it’s the council basically dissing us because we refused to allow them to charge cars to enter Edinburgh. They had a referendum, they had a vote on whether we should have a congestion charge as they do in London and we said “no we don’t think you should have a congestion charge”. Okay then we’re going to give you trams. Oh no please don’t give us trams.
And the whole city. The whole centre of the city has been dug up and dug up and dug up again and again and we’ve got another year, they say next december, which is three years behind schedule, it might be finished and we’ll have our single tram line.