Trams ahoy

Mike Marwick, from ESPC member firm Marwicks, tells us how the re-introduction of trams in Edinburgh will impact property.

The start of tram testing to York Place in December 2013 would see the first tram run along Princes Street since November 16th, 1956. It may seem a comparatively small piece of history in the making, but it is one with major implications for the future of Edinburgh and the housing market.

tram handles

A quick history

Things have changed a lot since the close of the old tram system in the 1950s, and attitudes towards public transport have changed dramatically too. In 1956, the UK was moving away from public transport with the emphasis being on increasing road space for more cars without anything obstructing their progress. The 1960s saw the Beeching Report, with its destruction of local rail services, (including the north and south suburban Edinburgh rail routes), major plans for new roads, and a decline in cycling also took place.  New housing developments were built regarding car ownership as the norm as vehicle ownership rocketed. The car was all powerful at that time, and house hunters regarded a commute to work on largely clear roads as part of their way of life. Over the years however, with increased congestion and pollution, the trend has started to reverse.

A European example

Now, the emphasis of many house hunters, especially amongst first and second time buyers, is placed on the importance of the proximity to good quality public transport and cycle and pedestrian access to work, schools and shops. The arrival of the tram is significant to these changed priorities. Experience throughout Europe has demonstrated the relevance of a modern tram system to growth and development. Dublin is perhaps the best example close to home of the “tram effect”.

Dublin tram

A Dublin LUAS tram

House prices along the routes have increased dramatically, and tram extensions have been built and part funded by developers keen to bring a quality public transport route close to their development. In Dublin the LUAS tram system (LUAS translates as “speed”) has exceeded all expectations both in terms of usage and acceptance with the latest city centre extension proceeding despite the recession. It will join up two segregated lines and effectively turn two routes into a network.

Implications for Edinburgh

It is estimated that the link will generate 10 million new passenger journeys a year. The introduction of trams in Dublin has resulted in major investment in sites close to the routes. Edinburgh is now starting to see similar results with evidence of business location and hotel developments close to the route.  The development of the Borders Railway line is also important, bringing areas long served only by bus and private car within reach of Edinburgh via a quality transport corridor. Edinburgh is unique, a world heritage capital with a high proportion of traditional properties, mixed in with new and proposed developments. The first part of the tram route to York Place covers both the new and the old.

edinburgh skyline

The city attracts a wide and varied mix of house hunters. If European patterns are followed, the next few years will see positive effects generated in terms of local investment and development.

Indeed, it is already starting to happen. The future completion of the initial route to Newhaven is important, since it should be the catalyst to restarting development to the north of the city. It is early days for the tram, but if experience elsewhere is anything to go by, the arrival of the tram should be a positive force for housing development and will increase marketability close to the currently curtailed route. It will take time to win hearts and minds, but the same was true in Dublin. We live in exciting times for Edinburgh, new trams, new train routes, and major improvements planned in rail services to the west of the city. It all has implications for house hunters. Edinburgh has certainly changed since the city’s last tram ran in November, 1956.

About the author

Mike MarwickMike Marwick is senior partner with Marwicks, Solicitors (est. 1978) specialising in domestic property purchase and sales. He is also a member of the Cockburn Association's Transport Committee and a part-time Broadcaster.

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