Edinburgh’s New Tram Line and Implications for Destination Positioning


Guest Article by Kenneth Wardrop 

I believe that many of the most successful destinations in terms of place management and branding all share the characteristic of having excellent modern integrated public transport systems. Cities that stand out as leaders in sustainable tourism, and overall as ‘green cities’ (for example those cities which feature in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s European Green City Index 2009 see Table 1 below) include Stockholm (Europe’s first ‘Green Capital City’ 2010 http://ec.europa.eu/environment/europeangreencapital/index_en.htm), Copenhagen, Oslo, Vienna and Amsterdam. Unsurprisingly these cities have consistently invested in modern integrated public transport systems including a mix of light rail, metro, suburban rail, bus, and trams. These destinations also promote to visitors, and those looking to live and invest  in the city, the ease of access around their cities utilising integrated public transport. Good integrated public transport is also an important influencer in perceptions of quality of life, which is a key feature of effective place marketing and a powerful influencing factor in decision-making on living, working, studying, investing in, and visiting a city.

What is clear when comparing leading destinations with outstanding green credentials is that one of the key features of their destination promotion activity is messaging about their developed integrated public transport networks. Many cities include access to their public transport system as part of their city card schemes (for example the Vienna and Stockholm City Cards).

Edinburgh tram

The City of Edinburgh Council, at a meeting on Friday 2 September 2011, took the important decision to continue with the construction of a new 14km tram link from Edinburgh Airport to St Andrew Square in the heart of Edinburgh’s UNESCO world heritage city centre http://www.edinburghtrams.com/.

The history of the realisation of this important piece of public transport infrastructure has been dogged with challenges and controversy since its commencement in 2008.  Initially it was planned to have this new transport link open by summer 2011, however it is likely to be at least another two years before the first fare paying service is running. While a total spend of €877m is now currently estimated for the project, as opposed to the original estimate of €545m.  However, this recent decision to proceed with the tram link is vitally important for the development and promotion, and maintenance of the competitive positioning of Edinburgh which is the UK’s second most important, and one of the world’s leading visitor destinations.

Research suggests that key impacts of trams are:

  • the contemporary feel that tram systems bring to a city;
  • a sense of ease of movement around a city (responding to a visitor preference for fixed link routes);
  • reductions in congestion;
  • the creation of a more pleasant accessible pedestrian friendly environment and traffic free areas;
  • the linking of regeneration areas and secondary visitor destinations within cities (such as the waterfront regeneration area at the Port of Leith in Edinburgh);
  • and the green credentials created from clean energy public transport systems.

The biggest economic benefit from trams comes from the well documented uplift in commercial and residential property values along tram routes and in particular close to tram stops. In Dublin, over the period between the start of construction and six months after the tram system opening, houses within a five minute walk of a tram stop had increased in value by 15% to 20% more than properties elsewhere in the city. The green credentials from modern tram systems arise through help in improving the urban environment: they are quieter than heavy rail and buses, they emit no direct pollution or greenhouse gases, and the associated reduction in road traffic also reduces ambient noise levels and they help improve air quality.

Edinburgh’s recent decision to proceed with the tram link is therefore vitally important in securing the destinations competitive position as ‘Scotland’s inspiring capital city’ and a world class place in which to invest, live, work, study and visit www.edinburgh-inspiringcapital.com. The tram will assist the city in maintaining the momentum in shifting customer perceptions of the city as one of Europe’s leading contemporary cultural capital city destinations. Edinburgh Airport is one of the fastest growing airports in the UK (currently 9 million passengers per annum and the fifth busiest), and the new link will help ease traffic congestion at the airport with the tram creating a link to the city centre with a 20 minute journey time. By linking as an integrated public transport system with the mainline rail network operated by Scotrail through interchange points at Waverley, Haymarket and new Gogarburn Stations, and with Lothian Buses extensive bus network (the UK’s largest bus company carrying 109 million passengers per annum), the tram will help achieve the desired integrated transport network the city has been seeking to developed.  The tram line will also stimulate commercial property development along its 14km route, and hopefully ultimately to the Port of Leith with its cruise liner terminal and visitor attractions such as the Royal Yacht Britannia, assisting the further economic regeneration of this area. This investment in Edinburgh’s capital infrastructure will I believe stimulate the city’s economic growth and wealth creation, and will achieve destination perception and market positioning benefits.

European Green Cities Index 2009. Source: Economist Intelligence Unit European Green City Index 2009 (Published March 2010)

For more information visit Kenneth’s web site:  www.kennethwardrop.co.uk

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