Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Council set to back Edinburgh tram extension

Tram passing Scott's Monument in Edinburgh Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption More than seven million people travelled on an Edinburgh tram in 2018

An extension of Edinburgh's tram service to Newhaven has been approved by a committee of City of Edinburgh councillors.

The council's transport and environment committee backed the move despite concerns about cost and disruption.

The full council will be asked to approve the extension when it meets on 14 March.

Passenger numbers have been rising. Figures for 2018 showed 7.3 million people travelled on the trams.

The plan would see the extension funded by borrowing and repaid by revenue from future ticket sales.

There will also be financial support through a £20m "dividend" from Lothian Buses.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The full council will be asked to back the plan when it meets on 14 March

The Conservative transport spokesman, Councillor Nick Cook, highlighted his concerns about the impact on bus services.

He claimed Lothian Buses could see "significant operational disruption" and "higher fares and possible job losses".

While the Hardy Inquiry into the funding of the initial line continues, he suggested no decision on an expansion of the service should be made.

He said: "A decision on the tram is a choice. 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."

'Major player'

But councillor Lesley Macinnes, the council's transport convener, backed the extension.

"This project is one of the most important things we can do for this city," she said.

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

The senior official responsible for the tram project, Hannah Ross, advised against delaying the decision until the inquiry into the initial construction cost had ended.

She said: "A delay to wait for the inquiry would cause difficulties in retaining the advisory team and contractors being told to wait could incur a cost to the council.

"Hardie may have findings that the council may want to incorporate at a cost."

Before backing the extension, councillors listened to the concerns of businesses near the route.

Harald Tobermann, from Community Councils Together on Trams, said: "Traders are very, very worried.

"They have not been physically contacted by a person from the tram project. They are worried because of the uncertainty of what will happen."

But he added: "If done well, the tram project will be an important opportunity for our area and other areas. It will bring economic benefit and community councils will give qualified support for the project."

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