Light rail and trams

12.02.19

Decision due on Edinburgh tram extension as cost rises to £207m

The business case for extending Edinburgh’s tram network in a £196m project has entered its final stage, with councillors in the Scottish capital scrutinising the case ahead of a decision next month.

Originally estimated to cost £165m, the final business case for the tram network extension reveals that the controversial project could now cost at least £207m – including ‘optimism bias.’

The city council is considering extending Edinburgh’s tram network to Newhaven, adding an extra 2.8 miles of tram line, and the authority expects 16 million people to use the system each year once in place.

Edinburgh councillors will now examine the final business case “in fine detail” in a month-long process, analysing the strategic, economic, financial, commercial, and management case for taking trams to Newhaven and Leith.

If approved by councillors, the tram works should be completed by 2022 and operational by early 2023.

The core tram network was installed in 2014, but the project came in at twice its original budget, and failings on the scheme have led to an on-going public inquiry.

But Edinburgh council leader Adam McVey said he was confident there would not be a repeat of those failings with the new scheme, which launched in 2017 and was followed by an extensive public consultation early last year.

McVey commented: “As Scotland’s fastest growing city, things simply cannot continue as they are – the transport system must evolve to cater to a rapidly growing population.

“The final business case before us now is the result of a huge amount of work by the project team to produce a strong business case for taking trams to Newhaven which – crucially – does not divert funding from other council services.”

The project will be funding through future tram fairs and a special dividend from Lothian Buses, and councillors will be asked to approve the £207m budget on 14 March.

But Conservative leader Iain Whyte expressed “huge concerns” over a project which works out as £92m per mile, and warned that rather than connect the city the plans were “likely to bankrupt the city.”

Deputy council leader Cammy Day said a tram to Newhaven would “not only provide a direct link for the people of Newhaven and Leith to the city centre and out to the airport, but would connect residents and visitors to major employment and travel hubs along the route.

“Completing the original vision for the first phase of the Edinburgh Trams network would unlock a large area of the city for housing development and employment opportunities.”

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