Delay threat to trams over OAP travel row

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By Kirsty Topping

 

The trams could be delayed further unless pensioners travel free

EDINBURGH’S trams could face another delay unless the service is made free for pensioners.

Last week it was reported that OAPs could have to pay to use the trams, leading to Conservative councillors threatening to delay the go-ahead for the works to St Andrews Square.

They say the Scottish Government must provide assurances that the over 60’s travel scheme will apply to the trams before they give the green light.

Edinburgh’s Tory group has tabled a motion for next week’s meeting of the city council, instructing the council’s chief executive to hold emergency talks with Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government and asking for written confirmation the national concession scheme will apply to the trams.

If they fail to get the assurances they could decide not to sign the final agreement with the contractor for completion of the route between the airport and St Andrew Square.

The council’s Labour group has indicated that they will support the motion.

But an upcoming by-election threatens to leave the final decision to three Green councilors if the balance of power in the council changes.

Tory group leader Jeremy Balfour said: “According to the business case, 20 per cent of the revenue is meant to come from concessionary travel, but the Scottish Government will not confirm whether this will be allowed.

“The danger is we go ahead with the trams and in a couple of years the government says the concessionary scheme does not apply and suddenly we have a deficit of £4 million or £5m a year. We think it’s unacceptable to go ahead without an absolute guarantee from the Scottish Government or Transport Scotland.”

Labour group leader Andrew Burns said the Tories’ point seemed “entirely sensible”.

He said: “It does underline the fact that the SNP-Lib Dem coalition has failed for four years to get this issue resolved.”

Labour has said that finance issues mean they do not support taking the trams to St Andrew Square.

SNP group leader and deputy council leader Steve Cardownie, who is opposed to the trams, said the Tories should have got answers on the concessionary fares before backing the business case in 2006.

He said: “Who’s leading the Tories – Rip van Winkle? They are trying to clear up something they agreed to five years ago.”
Transport convener, Lib Dem councillor Gordon Mackenzie said under the deal struck as a result of the mediation process on the trams, the council had to sign the final agreement by the end of the month or “all bets are off”.

But he admitted to “unease” over whether the free fares scheme would apply.

Transport Scotland said a ruling would be made “nearer to the project’s conclusion”

 

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