City faces £1.2m parking black holes as trams drive cars away

THE disruption caused by the city's tram project is set to cost council chiefs £1.2 million in lost parking revenue.

Figures released as part of the city council's budgeting process for next year have revealed the black hole in one of the local authority's biggest revenue generators.

The drop in income comes from the number of parking bays which have been suspended for tram works or traffic diversions.

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The money from the city's parking revenue goes to road repairs but the impact of the 1.2m loss is expected to be cushioned by a re-phasing of roadworks to be announced in the coming weeks. A total of 136 parking spaces have been lost in the West End, mainly on Melville Street, as a result of tram traffic diversions.

Dozens of spaces have also been lost on St Andrew Square and Leith Walk.

Recent works on Princes Street saw buses diverted on to George Street, meaning many motorists found it difficult to park on George Street, which is one of the most lucrative roads in terms of parking tickets and fines.

The city council made a total of 11.5m from pay-and-display tickets last year.

Opposition politicians today called for the parking money to be recouped from tram firm TIE, while driving groups warned city leaders they will have to get used to lower parking ticket income.

Bruce Young, Lothian and Borders co-ordinator of the Association of British Drivers, said: "I would hope that this drop has not come as a surprise to them.

"It is particularly difficult to get parked in certain parts of Edinburgh, such as George Street, and if you don't provide the facilities then they won't get the income.

"I really don't see people returning in numbers once all of this is over, so the council will have to get used to a reduced income."

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The city council is also facing a hit on revenue after extending its free parking during the festive season initiative – allowing free parking in the evenings and on Saturday afternoons – which was started in November as part of a bid to help ailing shops that have lost business to the trams roadworks and economic slowdown.

Edinburgh's Labour finance spokesman, Councillor Ian Murray, said: "I would hope that the city council is looking to get this money back from the tram construction budget. If TIE has to dip into its contingency funds then so be it because you can't just write off 1.2m from the city development budget."

Transport convener Phil Wheeler said: "When considering and finalising our budget we must take account of many different and often competing factors that will form the basis of our discussions in the coming weeks."

Parking spaces along the tram route will be curtailed once the line opens in 2011. Dozens of parking spaces will be lost on the east and west sides of St Andrew Square.

In Leith Walk, around half of the street's 162 parking spaces could be lost.

Princes Street 'will close' as works go on

PRINCES Street is set to close to make way for tram works, despite the fact a previous attempt to reroute traffic from the busy shopping street brought the city centre to a standstill.

Council officials are recommending pressing ahead with a shutdown for most of next year to ensure work to lay tram tracks is completed as quickly as possible.

This is yet another council U-turn over the trams scheme, and is not one which will go down well with traders.

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Council officials are also said to be refusing to ditch a controversial extension to the tram network to serve most of the Capital's waterfront, despite a massive funding black hole.

Mounting delays, blamed on the botched start to works at The Mound in October, mean the council is likely to have to suspend works on Princes Street for the summer festivals, then restart again in autumn.

The move – believed to be crucial to ensure the trams are up and running as planned in July 2011 – will trigger major concerns about the impact a full closure will have on retailers.

Jane Wood, head of Essential Edinburgh, the firm responsible for revitalising the city centre, said: "An awful lot is going to depend on how the council communicates these measures to businesses."

It emerged yesterday that business groups backed the idea of a full closure in the hope it would limit the length of time the city centre suffers major disruption.