We were all expecting York Place to close ahead of work on the Trams to Newhaven project being extended to start to join the old and the new tramway together but what probably wasn’t expected was that it would be happening so soon – within the next two weeks in fact! It has been confirmed that the current city centre terminus will be closed from either Wednesday 9th or Thursday 10th February (depending whether you believe the City of Edinburgh Council or Edinburgh Trams websites!) to allow its demolition to take place ahead of the construction of tram tracks to link up with the extension. Initially trams from the Airport will be terminated at West End and then from April St Andrew Square will become a temporary terminus until the extension opens in 2023.
Ever since the Trams to Newhaven project was announced it was well known that as part of it York Place would become the first stop on the network to be permanently closed (and the first modern UK tramway stop to close since Station Street in Nottingham during July 2015) as its single platform was in the way of a double track tramway being constructed onto the extension. The platform will need to be demolished and eventually replaced by track. As those who have been to Edinburgh know there is a short stub of track which finishes shortly before the platform and this will in effect be extended to allow the two parts of tramway to become one.
To allow arrangements to be put into place for St Andrew Square to become a temporary terminus for at least a year, trams won’t be able to run beyond West End for around two months from February until April 2022. Tram ticket acceptance on both Lothian Buses and Scotrail between Haymarket and Waverley stations has been put in place to allow passengers to complete their journeys into Edinburgh City Centre. Then from April 2022 trams will run along Princes Street again and terminate at St Andrew Square.
Lea Harrison, Managing Director of Edinburgh Trams, said: “The closure of York Place marks a major milestone in the Trams to Newhaven project, and shows that work to expand our popular tram network is gathering pace ahead of the planned launch of services on the new line in 2023. However, we are aware that the closure, and temporary suspension of services to Princes Street and St Andrew Square may cause inconvenience to some customers, so these works have been scheduled during the quietist time of the year and well ahead of what is expected to be a busy summer for the city.”
In the same Council press release it has also been confirmed that more than 60% of track has now been laid (2.8km), 85% of the necessary utility diversions have been carried out and construction work on the stops at McDonald Road and Ocean Terminal has been completed.
As work progresses on the extension, construction of the new Picardy Place stop will begin during May which will open with the rest of the line in 2023.
Construction works on the west side of Leith Walk are also nearing completion and this will see changes to traffic management in the area. This will see traffic still able to run citybound but from 2nd February it will be moved from the east to the west side of the road so that changes to kerb lines, improvements to public realm and the creation of a new carriageway can be carried out on the east side. Pilrig Street and Steads Place will reopen for southbound traffic at this point.
Cllr Lesley Macinnes, Transport and Environment Convener, said: “We’re entering a significant phase of the Trams to Newhaven project, as we work to link the old line to the new. We are in the final year of construction for the project which will be followed by a period of testing and commissioning ahead of opening for service in Spring 2023. With 60% of track laid and main construction on two of the new tram stops completed, we’re making great progress and it’s exciting to be able to see elements of the new line in place, giving us an idea of how the route will look next year.
Of course, as is expected of major infrastructure projects of this nature, there is bound to be some disruption, and I’d like to thank all those living and working nearby for their patience. We’re working hard to mitigate the impacts and will continue liaising with residents, businesses and public transport providers to keep them up to date.”
All this means that if you’re in Edinburgh and want to catch a tram from York Place you have less than two weeks to do so!