Concerns have been raised on whether the divisive streetcar extension in Edinburgh is feasible in the long term – depending on potential ticket sales in a post-Covid environment where a significant proportion are likely to continue working from home.
Edinburgh City Council has agreed to move ahead with the £ 207 million project to expand the streetcar network to Newhaven in the north of the city, after officials warned that it would cost £ 32 million to instantly cancel the system from the already exhausted funds of the authority and take up more than half of the overall budget.
Within the £207 million estimate, the expansion is still planned to be finished when it opens to passengers in the first quarter of 2023.
However, concerns have been expressed that the cost of borrowing will not be repaid – with financial success relying on increasing the number of passengers using the streetcar in Edinburgh, although many commuters are expected to continue boarding from home until the crisis of Covid 19 is over.
SNP told to dig deep to support streetcar extension in Edinburgh
The Welsh Government expects a third of the workforce to continue working from home – and yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon said she agreed with that estimate “broadly”
City council members have laid out different scenarios in which they might find themselves, but the worst-case scenario assumes only a 20% decrease in ridership and maintains that by 2030 it would return to 2019 levels – and that it will entail more drainage of the funds of the authority to cover costs.
“there is clearly uncertainty about whether the traffic responses required by Covid-19 will be temporary, have accelerated existing trends, or fundamentally change the nature and location of economic activity.”there is clear uncertainty as to whether the traffic responses required by Covid-19 will be temporary, whether current trends have accelerated or whether the nature and location of economic activity will fundamentally change.
The streetcar extension in Edinburgh is supposed to come into the budget
Conservative councilors, who opposed the project’s approval because it entails so many risks, claim that “far too optimistic.” is the worst-case scenario for streetcar ridership decline.
“Iain Whyte, leader of the Edinburgh Conservative group, added: “We said that going forward with this streetcar project on the basis of risky potential fare revenue to repay the loan is a massive risk that is not sustainable.
“They do not take into account that in the future people will be working from home – maybe just going to the office a few days a week instead of five, maybe nobody will go to the airport anymore because business travel will not happen even after the pandemic is over because employers will say, “Why should I send someone to London when they can do it by Zoom or Teams.
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“That’s not included in these numbers.”
When the final business case was approved in March 2019, Nick Cook, who was the Tories’ transport spokesperson on the council, added that ‘it’s all based on far too many rosy assumptions.’
Once the Covid 19 restrictions are permanently relaxed, the First Minister believes some Scots will continue to operate from home – possibly bad news for the viability of public transit systems.
Ms. Sturgeon emphasized that “it is unlikely, and may not be desirable, that we will emerge from this pandemic and simply return to normalcy.”
She added, “There are a lot of things that may contribute to these inequalities around the inequalities of life, around some of the employment relationships that we shouldn’t just let go back to normal if we can prevent it.”
Having witnessed anything as devastating as this pandemic on all kinds of levels, as destructive as it has been, I think we shouldn’t really allow things to go back to normal for a whole range of reasons.
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“It’s going to have an impact on other things – public transport, town and city centers, for example, and that all has to be part of our thinking in the period ahead.”
The Council has emphasized that the advantages of completing and opening the streetcar system would be important – not just in helping to revive the economy of the city at the end of the pandemic, but also in helping to move Edinburgh and Scotland to Kohl