A "vital" active travel path through the heart of Edinburgh used by people making half a million journeys each year is in danger of being lost under plans to extend the city’s tram network. 

Campaigners are calling on Edinburgh City Council to abandon proposals to run a new tramline along 2km of the Roseburn Path as part of a scheme to extend the network to Granton.

The path is used to make more than a thousand journeys each day by people walking and cycling through the city, and is part of Edinburgh’s active travel network.

It is also one of the only remaining slices of green space running through the urban environs of the city and designated a Local Nature Conservation Site.

But under the tramline plans it would all but disappear, with only a small, three-meter wide slice for walkers and wheelchair users remaining while cycling “would be discouraged” and diverted onto nearby roads.

Council documents show that the Roseburn Path is now the preferred option for the tramline, despite the fact it would incur “significant tree loss” and require major replanting before it’s status as a natural haven for wildlife could be restored.

The Herald: The path is popular with runners and cyclists The path is popular with runners and cyclists (Image: Save the Roseburn Path campaign)

The proposal to run the plan along the path is counter to the Edinburgh Biodiversity Action Plan, which identifies “linear habitat corridors” as a priority. 

Those who use the path have spoken of it as a tranquil refuge from the busy city streets which is hugely popular with Edinburgh residents which is home to “bats, hedgehogs, rabbits and birds”.  

A spokesperson for the Save The Roseburn Path campaign group said: "The Roseburn Path is a haven for wildlife and biodiversity, and a key active travel route away from busy roads. 

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“Edinburgh residents of all ages use it to get out and about, spending time in nature. It’s a slice of calm right at the heart of our busy city. 

“The proposal to build a tramline on The Roseburn Path threatens to destroy what it means to residents. The plans are completely at odds with Edinburgh’s key priorities on biodiversity, climate change and mental and physical well being.” 

In terms of active travel, data from Sustrans shows the Roseburn Path supports more than half a million active travel journeys a year. Having paths away from roads is so important for less confident or less experienced cyclists." 

The Herald: The path is one of the city's hidden green spaces The path is one of the city's hidden green spaces (Image: Save the Roseburn path campaign)

Edinburgh's trams began life mired in controversy amid delays and ballooning costs.  The bill to build the line from Edinburgh Airport to York Place was more than double the initial sum earmarked at the outset by the Scottish Parliament’s then Labour-led administration, and ended up costing taxpayers £835.7 million. 

An inquiry into the project, which itself took years longer than expected and cost millions, and concluded there was a "litany of avoidable failures" on the parts of several parties whose role it was to ensure that public funding was spent effectively and that the Edinburgh Trams project was delivered efficiently.

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Retired judge Lord Hardie, who chaired the inquiry, said: “Poor management and abdication of responsibility on a large scale have had a significant and lasting impact on the lives and livelihoods of Edinburgh residents, and the reputation of the city.”

The Roseburn Path has been selected as the preferred option by Edinburgh City Council as it will speed up journeys between the City Centre and Granton while also directly serving the Western General Hospital and improving links to Edinburgh Airport.

A public consultation on the plans is due to take place in the coming weeks. Edinburgh Council Transport convenor Scott Arthur has said that a one-kilometre section of the Roseburn path will remain untouched by the project and that an “excellent walking route” will be maintained.

Previously, Mr Arthur said the path isn’t fit for round-the-clock usage by cyclists, especially women and children.

“I use it myself, but it's not a path I would go along at night time. As a city I think we have to aspire to 24/7 cycle paths,” he said.

“If we want people (especially women and young people) to be able to cycle safely 24/7, then the Roseburn Path really isn’t the answer.”

Councillor Scott Arthur, Transport and Environment Convener, said: “Tram lines to Granton and the BioQuarter would provide reliable, affordable and clean transport between the north and south of the city.  

“In developing the Strategic Business Case for this transformative project, officers have spent a great deal of time analysing and modelling the potential routes. They weighed up a range of factors, including cost, carbon requirements, ecology, impacts on residents and businesses, and how the resulting route would affect tram journey times and reliability.

"I am also keen that we establish a route that provides key areas of deprivation with connections to work, training, healthcare and leisure."

The Herald: Council chiefs are hoping to press ahead with a new tram lien for EdinburghCouncil chiefs are hoping to press ahead with a new tram lien for Edinburgh (Image: NQ)

He added: “As we progress to public consultation to help inform the Strategic Business Case, it’s essential that we get this part of the process right. This is why we will be presenting both options for the line between Granton and the City Centre – via Orchard Brae and via the Roseburn Path – objectively and clearly.  Additionally, I have been clear that I want to see high quality cycling provision along a tram line on the Roseburn path and as much green space retained as possible if that option is adopted.

"Once the consultation is complete results will be brought back to committee and any next steps would be subject to further, significant public consultation and stakeholder engagement as part of the development of an Outline Business Case.

“I am continually being told that Edinburgh must be bolder and act faster in the face of the climate emergency. This tramline is a chance to show Edinburgh is serious. Waiting for climate solutions which come with no compromise is not an option.”