Trams to Newhaven

Source: RTM April/May 2018

Councillor Lesley Macinnes, transport and environment convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, discusses the proposed business case for expanding the city’s already successful tram network.

It’s now almost exactly four years since trams began running again in the heart of Scotland’s capital, with the start of passenger services between York Place in the city centre and Edinburgh Airport taking place on 31 May 2014.

Now a familiar sight (and sound – ding ding!) on the city’s streets once more, trams are proving a very popular addition to Edinburgh’s highly-successful public transport system, with passenger numbers growing consistently and soaring by almost 20% to 6.6 million in 2017.

In September 2017, the City of Edinburgh Council approved the outline business case (OBC) for taking trams to Newhaven, with a final decision on the project due to be made in late 2018.

Pending the final decision, our Trams to Newhaven project team has been working ceaselessly to build up solid, two-way relationships with the local businesses and communities who would be most impacted by construction works should the project go ahead.

A major six-week consultation exercise is currently ongoing online and through a series of public events and forums. Through this process, we’re keen to get as much public feedback as we can to help us develop and refine plans for traffic management and business support during construction, as well as how the streets along the route to Newhaven could look and function if and when tram infrastructure is built.

We recently announced a shortlist of bidders for taking trams to Newhaven, and tenders are due to be released this month.

Following the tender period, which is likely to last until late summer, the final business case will be updated, with a council decision due in late 2018 as to whether the project should proceed to the next stage, namely construction.

If the project is given the go-ahead, we anticipate that contracts would be signed late this year or early 2019, with the line between York Place and Newhaven due to become operational in 2022.

The details

Edinburgh’s trams currently operate between Edinburgh Airport and a temporary terminus at York Place in the city centre.

The Edinburgh Tram York Place to Newhaven project is a continuation of the tram line, commencing at the current York Place temporary stop and running along Leith Walk, Constitution Street and through the Port of Leith via Ocean Terminal to Newhaven. The project completes the originally envisaged Phase 1a of the Edinburgh tram network. The route is approximately 4.7km long and includes a mix of shared and segregated running on-street.

Two new sub-stations, eight new tram stops and a tram stabling area are to be constructed under the scheme, along with the tie-in between the existing twin-track route from Edinburgh Airport to York Place and the new section to be constructed by the project. The existing temporary York Place tram stop is to be decommissioned and replaced by the Picardy Place stop. 

The tram stops are proposed to be located at:

  • Picardy Place: island platform
  • McDonald Road: island platform
  • Balfour Street: island platform
  • Foot of the Walk: side platform
  • Bernard Street: island platform
  • Port of Leith: island platform
  • Ocean Terminal: island platform
  • Newhaven: side platform

The project involves the design and construction, systems integration, testing, commissioning and bringing into operational service of the Edinburgh Tram from York Place to Newhaven.

The OBC for the project, which was presented to council elected members in September 2017, sets out a range of conclusions.

The project is in line with all key strategic regional and city-wide plans and is set to create employment opportunities by linking three of the four priority investment zones in the city at West Edinburgh, the city centre and Edinburgh Waterfront. It also supports the sustainable development for a city where employment is projected to grow by almost 8% by 2022 and the population is forecast to grow by approximately 20% by 2039.

The line also serves a corridor of comparatively high unemployment and deprivation, and the tram will provide improved accessibility to residents along the corridor to the range of job opportunities in the city centre and along the existing tram corridor.

The OBC also concludes that there are potentially significant wider benefits associated with continuing the tram line into North Edinburgh and supporting the overall level of economic growth of the city through enhancing the viability and attractiveness of major housing and employment sites identified in the local development plan. The tram can help support economic activity (jobs, development and housing) at a greater level than would otherwise be the case.

The capital cost of the project is estimated to be £165.2m including risk and inflation through to project completion, and patronage is forecast to double in opening year to over 13 million passenger journeys.


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