THE Edinburgh trams extension project is moving forward too swiftly and not enough viable assurances have been made to businesses and communities, it is claimed.

Residents and businesses in the area most affected by the extension from York Place to Newhaven, which could cost £207 million, have called for commitments to tackle concerns ahead of the decision to back the project which is due tomorrow.

They said a raft of measures are key to minimising disruption to the daily lives of 75,000 residents and 1,500 businesses if it goes ahead. 

The call was made in a joint statement by Community Councils Together on Trams (CCTT), a coalition of the four community councils that cover the areas most impacted.

Edinburgh City Council has said it has conducted a wide consultation on the details of the extension and responded to concerns, adding it will enter discussions "wholeheartedly" to further refine plans.

CCTT, made up of Leith Central Community Council, Leith Links Community Counci, Leith Harbour and Newhaven Community Council and New Town and Broughton Community Council, said it has reviewed the information gathered from documents in the public domain and provided in monthly meetings with the tram project team.

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The group said: "While we continue to support the broad principle and ambitious aims of the tram extension, a number of our concerns have yet to be fully addressed.

"We recognise that a strong feeling exists among many people in our communities that this project is being pushed through with undue and unnecessary haste.

HeraldScotland:

"We remain sceptical about the absence of sufficiently robust progress or commitment over the following measures which are essential if the tram is to achieve its steep environmental mode-shifting targets and if the collateral damage of the inevitably disruptive construction period is to be reduced.

CCTT said it is seeking a firm commitment for "early and maximum clarity on the logistics intended to serve local businesses during construction to allow traders, along the tram corridor and - if necessary - along the diversion routes,  to plan ahead and make appropriate arrangements that will allow them to survive the inevitable disruption during the construction period".

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It says there should be a fully integrated ticketing system it says is "key to achieving a material modal shift from car to public transport as opposed to the 87% modal shift from bus to tram, as projected in the tram business case".

The group also called for staged construction sites, on Leith Walk, Constitution Street to Bernard Street and Ocean Drive to Ocean Way in parallel with a bus priority route deviations with quality temporary bus stops

It also wants controlled parking zones along the tram corridor to "prevent the tram corridor from turning into Edinburgh's largest park and ride area".

The group added: "CCTT has been a valued partner of the tram project team during the months leading up to this point in the process, contributing local knowledge and providing a critical sounding board.

"If real progress can be achieved in relation to our key concerns and the above measures, we will stay involved and work constructively with the tram project team during the early contractor involvement and construction periods."

Contracts have been approved for the two contractors for the potential Trams to Newhaven project, subject to the scheme being approved by the City of Edinburgh Council.

The council has said it has carried out extensive consultation with firms and residents including through public meetings and briefings.

Lesley Macinnes, transport convener, said: “We’ve worked very closely with the community councils throughout the process of building the Final Business Case and have successfully addressed many of their concerns, including some noted in today’s joint statement.

"The six-month Early Contractor Involvement period, which would start at the end of March if the project is approved tomorrow, will be a further opportunity, that we will enter into wholeheartedly, to further refine plans before construction gets under way.”
HeraldScotland: Retailer Dixons Carphone has become the latest victim of a cyber attack after revealing 5.9 million customer bank card details and 1.2 million personal data records were hacked (Yui Mok/PA)

The Financial Conduct Authority has fined Dixons Carphone £29.1 million for miss-selling a mobile phone insurance and technical support service known as "Geek Squad".

The City watchdog said the company failed to give its Carphone Warehouse sales staff the right training to give suitable advice to customers purchasing the Geek Squad service.

Dixons Carphone chief executive Alex Baldock said: "We're obviously disappointed that Carphone Warehouse fell short in the past.

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"But we're a very different business today; as the FCA acknowledges, we've made significant improvements since 2015.

"We're committed to stay on that trajectory, and to make sure all customers enjoy the right technology products and services for them."

The rejection of Theresa May's Brexit deal has caused dismay among many British businesses, but it also creates more unwelcome uncertainty for a country that relies significantly on UK trade - Australia.

Britain is Australia's seventh-largest trading partner, with two-way trade totalling around £15 billion in 2017-18.

The country's trade minister said on Wednesday that the Australian government was "doing all we can" to help firms deal with the uncertainty created by Brexit.