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Councillors wavering over big decision

Tram extension unlikely to get council backing, say sources

Edinburgh TramsSNP councillors are expected to block a plan to extend the Edinburgh tram when the council meets to discuss the next phase of the project next week.

An unconfirmed report says SNP members support an extension down Leith Walk to Newhaven but feel that it is unaffordable at a time when the council is making cuts.

All other parties have yet to decide their positions on the proposed £144.7 million extension, which will be debated in the City Chambers next Thursday.

Councillors will consider whether to complete the route to Newhaven, or take the line to Ocean Terminal, site of the former Royal Yacht Britannia, at a cost of £126.6m. A third optionis to create a halt at the foot of Leith Walk, priced at £78.7m.

An earlier plan to take the tram only as far as McDonald Road was discounted at an earlier stage.

An economic assessment of the case, presented to councillors June, showed there would be benefits from extending the single line route.

Labour’s Lesley Hinds, chairman of Transport for Edinburgh, argued that passengers numbers were growing and that the tram system, which launched in May 2014, would bring economic growth with it.

SNP councillors took a more cautious approach, calling for more information before deciding whether there was a case for investment.

 

> Daily Business Comment:

Officials have recommended taking the tram all the way to Newhaven. If the council rejects this option it will be the latest in a growing list of decisions that defy their officials, particularly on planning matters.

More to the point, for the SNP to argue that the council cannot afford the tram extension suggests they do not believe their own argument that it adds value to the economy of the city and is seen only in terms of a cost.

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