HOW can the councillors of Edinburgh even consider embarking on yet another tram fiasco when the inquiry into their failings and general incompetence has not yet even been reported on by Lord Hardie’s inquiry (“Focus on benefits as £165m tram extension plan is set for approval”, The Herald, August 9)? I read with dismay the suggestion that the councillors are to make a final decision in 2018.

They intend to spend another £165.2 million at today’s prices, which will be far exceeded when the work actually starts. For a city that pleads poverty and has sacked many officials, this simply does not make sense. We in Edinburgh have to endure some of the worst maintained roads in Britain yet, when it comes to the tram, a vanity project if ever there was one, the money seems to be readily available.

Meanwhile pedestrians, cyclists and motorists have to suffer the failure of the council to address the basic tasks that it should be dealing with: the roads and pavements. These should be the priority.

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All that the tram has achieved is to clog up the roads by effectively taking out three lanes of road space to provide a service that goes to locations no-one wants to travel to. Ask the public if the tram serves their needs and the answer will be a resounding”no”.

There is no proper link with Waverley Station and, once it leaves Haymarket heading westward, it spends its time travelling along a route serving no-one. The real capacity is down to some 25 per cent. The Edinburgh Airport bus provided a simple alternative; it is quicker, less expensive and travels a route which is useful to passengers.

It would make much more sense to promote the bus service throughout the city rather than extend the incompetent tram system and waste even more of the council’s money. Let us do the things that need to be done rather than waste time, money and effort on what could turn out to be yet another topic for an inquiry.

Do the basics well and people will praise Edinburgh for “getting it right”. We need better roads and pavements as a priority, the litter to be collected and the city to be seen as one that welcomes all forms of transport, be it of the wheeled variety or simply for pedestrians.

Just think of what we might have achieved with the money spent on the tram thus far and what it is projected to cost; the answer may not be glamorous but it does the job we elected our councillors to do.

Allan Alstead, 49 Moray Place, Edinburgh.

I AGREE entirely with the views expressed by Rosemary Goring (“Plastic is in the bag but our air must be so much cleaner”, The Herald, August 9) about air pollution. It’s an invisible killer; it’s estimated that about 2,500 people die prematurely in Scotland each year because of it and many thousands more have their health severely affected. The Westminster Government’s decision to phase out the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2040 is welcome but we should tackle such a serious health problem with much more urgency.

Ms Goring suggests that congestion charges could help clean the air in our big cities, and she’s right. In fact, congestion charging was suggested for Edinburgh in the years BT (Before the Tram); it was rejected by Edinburgh City Council after the Liberal Democrats, perfidious as ever, first supported it and then rejected it. That’s why we ended up with a tram line costing £22,000 per foot, bringing with it enormous disruption during construction and an ongoing toll of injuries to cyclists, including one fatality.

The more radical option than congestion charging is road pricing, by which cars are charged a variable rate per mile depending on the road they’re on and the time of day.

Conceived mainly as a way of reducing traffic congestion at peak times, it could also tackle the broader problem of air pollution by making it economically unattractive for motorists to drive into our city centres.

I recognise the privacy concerns surrounding the monitoring of vehicle locations that go with a road pricing scheme, but I believe they can be alleviated. In any event, road pricing could deliver great improvements to traffic flow and improved air quality in our cities, outcomes worth pursuing.

The key to all this, of course, is a reliable, affordable and integrated public transport network and we’re some way off providing that in Scotland. The Scottish Government has made significant progress in this area, but its report card should read “more effort required”.

Doug Maughan, 52 Mentieth View, Dunblane.

I HAVE read the correspondence on transport and feel I must comment on points raised (Letters, August 7,8,9&10).

A ScotRail official has indicated that the Class 158 units referred to on these pages were to replace the present units on the West Highland Line from next year as they were better suited to scenic routes. I agree that the Class 158 units are the worst type of unit that ScotRail operates and, far from employing them on scenic routes, they should be banished to the scrapyard. I recall that, when they replaced the Class 156 units on the lines north of Inverness, there was severe criticism from locals and tourists alike at what was seen as a backward step. The Class 158 units also suffer from reliability problems, as witnessed by the recent cancellation of the same train for three days running on the Wick route.

Despite what some correspondents have asserted, it is not necessary to change stations in Glasgow to travel from Ayrshire /Inverclyde to Edinburgh as, during the day, there are three services an hour between Glasgow Central and Edinburgh.

One is a slow service but the other two take little over an hour. There are a number of through services a day between Ayr and Edinburgh and vice versa. I do not believe that a business case was ever made for providing Crossrail. It would bring no benefits for passengers travelling to Glasgow and would have to rely on through traffic to justify its case.

I agree about the omission of stops at Dunlop and Kilmaurs, as well as Barrhead, for spurious reasons when the half-hour service between Glasgow and Kilmarnock was introduced following the upgrade of the line. The end result was that trains had to sit at Stewarton for about three minutes awaiting access to the single line. Whilst the stops at Dunlop and Kilmaurs have been added, a number of services still omit the Barrhead stop, which would add better connectivity for the route.

Ian Harrison, Flat 61, Minerva Court, Glasgow.