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Council to consider £165m tram extension

Edinburgh Trams
Tram: cost of building the near-nine mile line doubled by the time it was built

An extension to Edinburgh’s tramline, costing £165 million, will be considered by the City Council next month.

Councillors will be asked to give initial approval to extend the existing 8.7 mile route from York Place in the east end of the city to Newhaven close to Leith harbour.

While a final decision will not be made until autumn 2018, a vote to go ahead at this stage would allow council officials to move to the next stage of appointing contractors and working up detailed plans.

It is thought work could start in 2019 with the first trams operating by 2022.

Extending the single line tram route is likely to stir up more concern from traders and commuters, particularly as the work will lead to three more years of disruption.

Council tax payers may also object to the huge outlay required when roads, walkways and other infrastructure continue to deteriorate after years of neglect.

Questions will also be asked as to why the council has resurfaced and redesigned Leith Walk if it is to be dug up again to lay tram lines.

Shopkeepers and other traders in the area endured months of road works when the mile-long road was dug up for the original line which was never installed. The extension will also go down Constitution Street which has also been recently resurfaced.

Talk of compensation packages may not be enough to satisfy those who saw businesses affected by the tram works go to the wall.

The council will argue that it needs to meet the transport demands of a growing population. It will also point out that the cost will be reduced because trams for the route were included in the original order and are already at the Gogar depot.

Critics will point out that in 2003 the scheme had an estimated cost of £375m, but by May 2008, when contracts were signed, the cost had risen to £521m. The final cost after delays was £776m.

Council leader Adam McVey argues that the city must build a public transport system fit for the future.

“As the fastest growing city in Scotland, and with our existing system nearing capacity, we have to look at ways of enhancing our public transport system,” he says.

“The planned tram extension route takes in Scotland’s most densely populated area. Taken with low car ownership, developing high capacity transport to Newhaven would bring a range of local benefits in terms of boosting economic growth, creating jobs, enhancing accessibility, reducing congestion and improving air quality.

“We’re now working to make sure that the business case is as robust as possible to ensure we have confidence that the project can be delivered on time and on budget.”

Edinburgh Tram and CR Smith
Gerrard and George Eadie directors of CR Smith at the unveiling of the firm’s partnership with Edinburgh Trams (photo by Terry Murden)

The latest plans emerged as Edinburgh Trams unveiled a deal with glazing company CR Smith, its first commercial partner. Eighteen of the 27 trams will carry newly-designed artwork in a two-year agreement for an undisclosed sum.

Gerard Eadie, executive chairman of CR Smith, said the deal would give the company “massive visibility”.

The deal was negotiated by Marketing Edinburgh, Transport for Edinburgh and Edinburgh Trams on behalf of the city council which will benefit from the added income.

A spokesman for Transport for Edinburgh said talks were under way with other potential partners for advertising on the remaining nine trams and on other tram infrastructure. It carries RBS promotions at the Gogarburn stop, although a similar proposal for St Andrew Square was rejected on aesthetic grounds. Previous estimates have suggested the tram system could raise £1.32 million from advertising.

A report setting out the business case for extending the tram route will go before the city council’s transport and environment committee for approval in principle on 4 September. If granted, the plan will go before full council on 21 September.

Transport Convener Lesley Macinnes, said the city has been named the UK’s best for transport links.

“We cannot be complacent, though. We must ensure we keep investing in public transport and sustainable travel, both to cater to ever greater numbers of residents and visitors and to improve our environment,” she said.

“The outline business case demonstrates good early performance for the tram, with patronage expected to double in the first year.”

Interview: Gerard Eadie, of CR Smith, on the new sponsorship deal




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