Plans considered again for Edinburgh Trams extension

A report into extending Edinburgh Trams from the current city centre terminus at York Place to Newhaven is set to be considered by councillors to look into the feasibility of completing line 1A of the system. The report will be considered in September before a final decision is made in autumn 2018.

The report will set out the case for completing the line from York Place to Newhaven and will seek approval in principal for the Outline Business Case and the authority to enter into a procurement exercise to identify a potential contractor for the project. The Transport and Environment Committee will consider the report on 4th September before it is passed on to the full council on 21st September. A final decision would then be made in autumn 2018 whether to proceed and which contractor would be appointed to construct the line.

The project is estimated to cost £165.2 million – including construction costs, risks and inflation (project costs are helped by the fact no new trams will need to be ordered). If the go-ahead is given to the extension it should take approximately three years to construct with passenger services starting in first half of 2022.

The business case forecasts patronage on the tram would double in the first year to almost 14 million and that Lothian Buses would continue to perform strongly despite the obvious move of passengers moving from the bus to the tram.

Cllr Adam McVey, Council leader said: “As the fastest growing city in Scotland, and with our existing system nearing capacity, we have to look at ways of enhancing our public transport system. The planned tram extension route takes in Scotland’s most densely populated area and, taken with low car ownership, developing high capacity transport to Newhaven would bring a range of local benefits in terms of boosting economic growth, creating jobs, enhancing accessibility, reducing congestion and improving air quality. We’re now working to make sure that the business case is as robust as possible to ensure we have confidence that the project can be delivered on time and on budget.”

The controversial nature of the project and the inevitable disruption it will cause along Leith Walk in particular is also mentioned in the business case and this confirms that a business compensation scheme would be introduced for local traders during the construction period.

Cllr Lesley Macinnes, Transport Convener, commented: “Only yesterday, we were named the UK’s best city for transport links, demonstrating the success of our continued work to deliver a truly integrated public transport system for the Capital. We cannot be complacent, though. We must ensure we keep investing in public transport and sustainable travel, both to cater to ever greater numbers of residents and visitors and to improve our environment. The Outline Business Case demonstrates good early performance for the tram, with patronage expected to double in the first year. Crucially, however, it also shows Lothian Buses continuing to operate at the high standard of service we’ve come to depend on. We have the opportunity now to study the numbers in more depth before deciding on whether to progress, taking into account the needs of the city’s tax payers, and ensuring we learn lessons from the past.”

One thing which the City of Edinburgh Council press release hasn’t confirmed is whether it will be the full line to Newhaven or just down to the foot of Leith Walk which is being considered. The full line would run for approximately three miles and would travel via Leith Walk, the Port of Leith and Ocean Terminal before terminating at Newhaven.

Although there are no guarantees the project will definitely go-ahead this is the most positive step to extending the line for quite some time and hopefully come September there will be more positive news coming out from Edinburgh.

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