Light rail and trams

15.03.19

£200m Edinburgh tram extension given green light despite criticism for ‘arrogant’ plans of ‘unknown financial risk’

Councillors have rubber-stamped £207m plans to extend Edinburgh’s tram line from the city centre to Newhaven despite major criticism over the project’s rising costs and the disruptions it could cause.

Edinburgh City Council voted 36 to 26 in favour of the controversial plans to extend the tram line in the Scottish capital by 2.8 miles to Newhaven.

Supporters claim the extension is needed to match the city’s growing population with the tram works due to be completed by 2020 and operational in early 2023, as Edinburgh faces the choice to “develop or die as a city.”

But the plans have been approved before the findings of an inquiry into the problem-hit installation of the core tram network in 2014 have been published, with that project coming in at twice its original budget.

The Newhaven extension has also already seen a substantial rise in costs with the final business case predicting costs of £207m compared to the original estimate of £165m.

The city council expects nearly 16 million people to use the completed tram line in the first year of its operation, and construction work is set to get underway at the end of March with work also ongoing to finalise a £2.4m package to support businesses through the process.

The city council’s transport and environment convener Lesley Macinnes called it a “crucial decision” for Edinburgh.

She said: “Taking trams to Newhaven will allow brownfield development sites to be transformed, opening up the whole of north Edinburgh to a wealth of opportunities in terms of jobs, housing and local facilities. And vitally, this will be achieved without putting pressure on existing council budgets.

“Our city is growing faster than anywhere else in Scotland and boosting our public transport infrastructure in a sustainable way is fundamental to catering to our expanding population.”

She added: “I firmly believe the tram project is in the best interests of the city's current and future residents and, as an a dministration, we will do everything in our power to make sure it's delivered on time and on budget. Next stop: Newhaven!”

The extension proposals, which will be funded by borrowing and repaid revenue from future ticket sales and a £20m dividend from Lothian Buses, was rejected by the two opposition parties.

The Conservative transport spokesperson, Nick Cook, said the council should invest in schools instead of a £93m per mile tram extension and warned of “unknown financial risk” and “terrible value for money.”

He added: “The Edinburgh tram inquiry is set to become one of the most expensive in British history. It is arrogant in the extreme that the council has today opted to proceed without the Inquiry’s full findings.”

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