‘Land train’ plans for Royal Mile

● Idea emerges in blue­print to turn Old Town into ‘5-star des­ti­na­tion’

The Scotsman - - Front Page - EX­CLU­SIVE By BRIAN FER­GU­SON

Ed­in­burgh’s Royal Mile could be­come home to Scot­land’s first “land train” un­der plans to trans­port tourists to the thor­ough­fare’s key sites. The blue­print also in­cludes a clam­p­down on beg­ging and an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iour.

It is Scot­land’s most his­toric thor­ough­fare, thronged with visi­tors flock­ing to at­trac­tions like Ed­in­burgh Cas­tle, The Palace of Holy­rood­house and St Giles’ Cathe­dral.

But now the Royal Mile could be­come home to its first “land train” to take tourists around its key sites and help spread the ben­e­fits of the in­dus­try.

A move to repli­cate ven­tures in his­toric towns and cities over­seas is be­ing con­sid­ered as part of a bid to turn the Old Town into a “world-class fives­tar des­ti­na­tion.”

A key aim is spread­ing the eco­nomic ben­e­fits gen­er­ated by the ma­jor at­trac­tions “more evenly” across the Old Town, which at­tracts more than four mil­lion visi­tors a year.

Streets would be reg­u­larly closed off for mar­kets, pro­ces­sions, pageants and her­itage-re­lated events, new works of pub­lic art would be com­mis­sioned, and new walk­ing guides would be cre­ated un­der a vi­sion aimed at pro­tect­ing the Old Town’s World Her­itage Site sta­tus.

Its back­ers want a pro­posed new ded­i­cated mar­ket­ing cam­paign for the Old Town to “cre­ate a strong and as­pi­ra­tional iden­tity, sense of place and global ap­peal.”

How­ever a clam­p­down on beg­ging, rough sleep­ing and an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iour is pro­posed in the blue­print, which busi­nesses are cur­rently be­ing con­sulted on. A new team of “street am­bas­sadors” could be brought in to help tackle long­stand­ing prob­lems, while ac­tion is also pro­posed to tackle “dis­tressed” lo­ca­tions which have been blighted for years.

New light­ing is pro­posed to help trans­form the for­tunes of “no-go” closes and court­yards after dark, while mea­sures to curb traf­fic on streets like the Cow­gate and Vic­to­ria Street are ex­pected to be drawn up.

Tack­ling “dis­tressed” ar­eas and de­vel­op­ing long-stand­ing gap sites are other key aims of the project, which has been de­vel­oped by a steer­ing group made of lo­cal busi­nesses, her­itage bodies and city coun­cil rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

The plans have been de­vel­oped fol­low­ing re­search which found that safety and se­cu­rity con­cerns were cited by 42 per cent of busi­nesses as the Old Town’s big­gest prob­lem. Two thirds de­manded cleaner streets, while bet­ter pro­mo­tional of the area was sought by nearly half of them.

A vote will be held next sum­mer on a pro­posed Busi­ness Im­prove­ment Dis­trict, which would see around £3 mil­lion a year raised for spe­cial ini­tia­tives via a new rates levy, sim­i­lar to a scheme which al­ready ex­ists in the New Town.

James Mcgregor, owner of the Royal Mcgregor bar and restau­rant on the Royal Mile, said: “An or­gan­ised busi­ness com­mu­nity can work more ef­fec­tively to cre­ate pos­i­tive change and in­crease sup­port for busi­nesses in the area.”

0 Land trains sim­i­lar to this one in ac­tion in St An­drews could be seen on Ed­in­burgh’s Royal Mile which at­tracts four mil­lion visi­tors a year

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