EDINBURGH’S tram line will be extended to the north and south and the city centre will be largely car-free within ten years under radical plans to transform Scotland’s capital.

Council leaders have unveiled blueprints for “iconic streets” to be “progressively pedestrianised” over the next decade, with George Street to be shut to vehicles by 2025.

Proposals to be put out for consultation also float the idea of a congestion charge "if necessary", but city chiefs stressed there were no plans to implement this.

Meanwhile, "seamless ticketing" will allow passengers to easily move between buses, trams and other modes of transport.

Parking controls will also be extended "for the benefit of residents", freeing up space from commuter parking.

Edinburgh is the fastest growing city in Scotland, while the cost of traffic congestion to the local economy is estimated at £225 million a year.

Adam McVey, the leader of Edinburgh Council, said: “We’re already making great strides towards reducing carbon emissions in Edinburgh but, if we are to achieve our 2030 target, now is the time to be even bolder and more ambitious. 

"The City Mobility Plan offers a radical, ten-year plan to transform transport in the capital, achieving the kind of change we need by expanding use of bus, tram, rail, walking and cycling to provide the best quality of life for everyone.

“What’s crucial to any strategy, however, is buy-in of our residents and those who travel into the capital to work and visit. 

"Everyone needs to play their part and I look forward to engaging with the public as we progress a finalised City Mobility Plan, alongside the development of the City Plan 2030.”

HeraldScotland:

Council leaders drew inspiration from cities such as Copenhagen, Paris, Sydney and Barcelona when drawing up their plans, as well as those closer to home such as Manchester and London. 

Their strategy document says funding the proposals "will be challenging, requir[ing] significant capital investment, business transformation, and changing revenue streams."

They plan new bus and tram systems by 2025, by which point they hope air pollution levels will have been significantly reduced due to city centre and city-wide low emission zones.

By 2030, the "mass transit network", including new tram lines, will have been extended west to Newbridge and will have been developed to connect the waterfront in the north to the Royal Infirmary in the south and beyond.  

The document says the city centre "will be largely car-free" in a decade's time, while a "comprehensive new bus route network will be in place, with hubs at gateways to the city centre, and our iconic streets will be progressively pedestrianised". 

"Elsewhere pavements widths will have been significantly widened with obstacles removed," it adds.

Council chiefs say they plan to "expand the tram/mass rapid transport network to the north and south of the city as well as to Newhaven and explore the potential to extend routes to the west of the city and into Fife, West, Mid and East Lothian".

Meanwhile, a congestion charge could be considered "in the course of updates to [the] council on the level of success of the overall strategy and the impact of measures introduced over the early years of it". 

The paper adds: "Road user charging is an effective way of reducing the number of cars in a city by encouraging drivers to switch to public transport, walking and cycling, and providing a funding to support the development of alternative mobility options."

If they are approved by councillors, an eight-week public consultation on the draft plans will begin in February. 

Edinburgh wants to reduce carbon emissions arising from road transport to zero by 2030.  

In a foreword to the new strategy document, Councillor Lesley Macinnes, Edinburgh’s transport convener, said: “Over the past ten years Edinburgh has made significant progress. But now is the time for bolder, more transformational action.

“Making a positive difference to people’s lives in a fast changing environment requires ambition, courage, focus and a change of pace in delivery.

“We cannot spend another twenty years building a single tram line, when we need to develop a truly integrated public transport network, including additional tram lines, in the next ten years.”

Edinburgh is already pushing ahead with plans for low emission zones and a new workplace parking tax. 

John Lauder, deputy chief executive of the walking and cycling charity Sustrans, said the proposals were "the start of an exciting conversation for residents about how they want to get around the city".

He said: "This is a topic that is high on the agenda of everyone who lives, works and visits the city, but it is also of importance across other Scottish cities.

“We are pleased that this ambitious and long-term plan not only looks at the city centre, but the suburbs too and addresses how we travel in and out of the capital on direct, fast, convenient routes by walking, cycling and public transport.

“This is vital if Edinburgh is to tackle congestion, accommodate the growth of the city and jobs and meet its laudable target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

“We look forward to taking part in the consultation and urge everyone to have their say on Edinburgh’s plans.”

Stuart Hay, director of walking charity Living Streets Scotland, said: “It’s vital that Edinburgh matches the efforts of European capitals, including Paris, Brussels and Oslo which have taken bold measures to prioritise pedestrians instead of traffic.

"A largely car-free city centre by 2030 is essential if Edinburgh is to tackle air pollution, congestion and health issues associated with inactivity."