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On right track to ensure transport system is fully integrated

Transport connectivity is essential to ensuring the ongoing economic success of Edinburgh and of Scotland as a whole.

Confidence is growing and the business community is eagerly awaiting a fully integrated transport system.

We are already on the right course.

At the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce we are actively working to make sure the right road, rail and air connections are in place to drive growth.

That means listening to an extensive range of members and liaising with the key policy makers and transport players to make sure that they understand the priorities that businesses are demanding - be that additional air services, more express rail services or quality wifi connections across all public transport options.

Working in partnership with other cities to drive the connectivity agenda is also essential for the benefit of corporate Scotland.

It is important to set aside local rivalries if a joint voice will resonate louder and ensure we get the transport system we need as a country.

One example of our efforts is the active consultation with bidders for rail franchises on behalf of the business community.

Effective and efficient rail connectivity is a critical success factor.

With millions of rail passenger journeys in Edinburgh every year, the franchise process is an opportunity to establish an even more customer-focused, value-for-money service, building on the success of recent years.

A huge chunk of the £3.5 billion invested in the Edinburgh region relates to transport infrastructure. There are the upgrades of Waverley and Haymarket stations, the new Forth Crossing, the Borders Railway and, of course, the tram project.

All of which are under way, recently completed or nearing completion.

Excitement is building towards the trams. There are already increased commercial investments along the initial route.

The tram system will complement the city's leading bus system. The question is not do we need trams but where will they go next?

With more than nine million passengers at Edinburgh airport we are not only enjoying new routes but continue to benefit from an extensive investment programme. Edinburgh disproportionately accounts for Scotland's international tourism and this is expected to grow.

Transport is an enabler - giving people access to places of work, leisure and retail. A successful integrated transport system provides choice, value and great customer service. We have to ensure all of the transport systems work together effectively both within and between towns, cities and countries. This is no longer a desire for any international city, but an absolute necessity, as we continue to compete in a global market place.

David Birrell is chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce

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