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Light rail networks key to tackling congestion in Scotland’s major cities

Published 21 May 2020 by Transform Scotland

We have today published our proposal for ‘Light Rail Networks in Scotland’s Major Cities‘ in response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the new National Planning Framework (NPF4).

Congestion poses a serious threat to the future of Scotland’s cities and their prospects for growth, and a modern public transport system is an important factor in attracting a high-quality workforce and visitors. In addition, we face very demanding local air quality targets: electric light rail generates no emissions at the point of use and so can help in ensuring that dangerous levels of air pollution are avoided.

Nigel Bagshaw, Transform’s Policy Advisor, said:

“Cities across the world are either building or expanding light rail networks because they provide a common-sense answer to urban transport problems. Light rail is an extremely efficient means of moving large numbers of people and reducing climate-change emissions, air pollution and congestion, and it also brings broader benefits in terms of accessibility, affordability and employment mobility. The improvements which light rail has achieved elsewhere in the world should also be available here in Scotland.”

Transform proposes the following for Scotland’s major cities:

  • Edinburgh – In addition to the completion of the tram line down Leith Walk to Newhaven, plus along the former railway line via Roseburn as the network was originally envisaged, Transform Scotland proposes to extend the lines to develop a city-wide tram network. This network should extend to the suburbs and new developments where the benefits in terms of removing private car traffic would be very significant.
  • Glasgow – Transform Scotland supports the Glasgow Connectivity Commission’s call for a comprehensive ‘Glasgow Metro’ rapid transit system. This network could be created by adapting parts of the heavy rail to accommodate light rail, reopening disused heavy rail lines for light rail and building new routes that connect strategic locations of the city.
  • Aberdeen and Dundee – Neither Aberdeen nor Dundee currently have a light rail network although both cities had sizeable tram networks until the 1950s. However, both these cities face similar challenges regarding congestion and air pollution as Edinburgh and Glasgow and would greatly benefit from the provision of clean and efficient public transport. Smaller-sized cities on the continent, such as Bern (Switzerland), Utrecht (Netherlands) and Graz (Austria) demonstrate that trams can be successful in cities with population sizes similar to Aberdeen and Dundee and could help cope with population growth and provide regeneration.