Budget pressure claims

McVey dismisses doubts over Edinburgh’s £200m tram line

Tram in Constitution Street

Trams are due to run through Leith, here shown in Constitution Street

Edinburgh City Council leader Adam McVey has dismissed suggestions that it may be forced to shelve the £200 million extension of the city tram line to Newhaven.

Pressure on local authority budgets caused by the coronavirus has raised questions over the council’s ability to raise the necessary finance.

The Tories’ financial spokesman at the City Chambers, Graham Hutchison, told the Edinburgh Evening News that the impact of COVID-19 on the finances of Lothian Buses was so great that a £20m dividend from the council-owned bus company, is under serious threat.

Both Lothian buses and the the council leader said the impact of the virus on council projects, including for the tram extension, will not be known for some time.

Councillor McVey said: “The tram team have put in an enormous amount of hard work with our contractors to take us through this challenging period.

“The implications of COVID-19 are unlikely to be understood for some time but we will make every effort to mitigate the impact and get the tram project back up and running when we’re able to reopen the construction site.

Work in Constitution Street has halted (pic: Terry Murden)

“The Tram Project is being delivered for the future of our city and it’s important to note that the project is largely funded through borrowing repaid by future tram revenues, so any impact to the council’s budget now is limited.”

However, despite publishing a report outlining the financial implications of coronavirus, the impact on arms-length companies including Lothian and Edinburgh Trams has been kept under wraps.

The council is predicted to lose £53.5m if there is a three month lockdown.

The majority of the funding for the £207m tram extension is to come from borrowing, paid back through future ticket sales on the network.

Work began on the extension last November, taking the eight mile line from its current east end terminus at York Place, down Leith Walk and onwards to Ocean Terminal shopping mall, home of the Royal Yacht Britannia.

The additional line was expected to be complete by 2023 at a cost of £207.3m. When complete it will run for 4.69 kilometres (2.91 miles), with eight stops.

The work in Constitution Street was due to be complete this summer (pic: Terry Murden)

Work has been under way on two sections in Constitution Street at the Foot of the Walk to Coatfield Lane – scheduled to be completed by Spring 2021 – and Queen Charlotte Street to Constitution Place, scheduled to be finished by Summer 2020.

Those dates will no longer be met. Work ceased soon after the lockdown was ordered on 23 March.

The work being carried out by Sacyr Farrans Neopul Joint Venture (the Infrastructure and Systems Contractor) and Morrison Utility Services (the Swept Path Contractor) involves excavation of the road to allow utility diversions, track-laying, installation of tram infrastructure, public realm improvements and heritage and archaeology works. 

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