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01.03.19

Councillors back controversial plans to extend Edinburgh’s tram network

The controversial extension of Edinburgh’s tram network to Newhaven has been backed by a committee of City of Edinburgh councillors.

Final proposals for the £207m project were submitted last month and have been heavily scrutinised by councillors in the Scottish capital after costs surged by more than £40m.

Now the city council’s transport and environment committee has voted to endorse the final business case for the project.

Following this vote of approval, the case will now go in front of the full council on 14 March – although concerns have been raised by opposition councillors.

If approved, the extension will be funded by borrowed and repaid revenue from future ticket sales, and Lothian Buses will also provide a £20m dividend.

The city council wants to extend the current tram network, installed in 2014 whilst facing a major backlash, by adding an extra 2.8 miles of tram line – and the authority hopes an extra 16 million people will use the new system each year.

If approved, the tram works are due to be completed by 2022 and operational by early 2023.

With the Hardie Inquiry into the funding of the initial tram line ongoing, the Conservative transport spokesperson Nick Cook said the extension would cause “significant operational disruption” to Lothian Buses and possibly result in higher fares and possible job losses.

He said: “The money could be spent on other priorities. This is not a case of tram or nothing - to claim so is simply false.

“Without the Hardie Inquiry reporting, the council simply cannot say what the financial implications of this project to the taxpayers will be.”

But councillor Lesley Macinnes, the council’s transport convener, said the project was “one of the most important things we can do for this city.”

“The tram can be a major player in providing what the city requires. This is a process that has been done well.”

Prior to the decision, the committee heard concerns from local businesses and Harald Tobermann from the Community Councils Together on Trams said traders are “very, very worried” and have not yet been contacted by anyone from the tram project.

Tobermann said that whilst the uncertainty was worrying, if the project was done well then it would bring economic benefit to the city.

Image credit -  Andrew Milligan/PA Archive/PA Images

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