City chiefs consider using docks money to finish tram line

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A MULTI-MILLION-POUND funding pot to kick-start the development of Edinburgh's Waterfront could be used to help take the tram line to Newhaven, it emerged today.

&#149 Hopes are increasing that the tram line could extend as far as Ocean Terminal- as this artist's impression shows - and on to Newhaven

City leaders are desperate to find a way of ensuring the line still extends to Newhaven as originally planned - but they admit that they have no idea how much that will cost.

Today they said that part of an 84 million plan to get development moving at Leith Docks could involve helping to fund the tram project.

The Scottish Government has already approved plans by the council to borrow 84m against future business rates income from companies in the Leith Docks area.

The original business case for the project - called tax incremental financing (TIF) - was for the money to be spent on four infrastructure projects: a new cruise liner terminal, lock gates, a new link road and a riverside walkway with shops and restaurants. But the benefits of the project relied on the tram line being completed as far as Newhaven.

Council leader Jenny Dawe today admitted some of the TIF funding could now be used to take the tram further than St Andrew Square, which is expected to be the last stop in a first phase of the project. She said: "It certainly has the potential to be used for the tram, although it is too early to have the full detail for that. I have asked if the Scottish Government approval is dependent on these four projects and was told no.

"It would be possible, if at some stage the tram seemed more important than lock gates, for example, that there is the potential of using this as a way of financing it.

"The plan is still that we will have the tram from the airport to Newhaven and, if it would make the most economic sense, this money could help achieve that. At this stage, the TIF is just at the point that we have got approval to go ahead with the project. We now need to set up an executive group of officers from the Scottish Government, council and Forth Ports and also to seek approval to start a more detailed discussion about how it will be carried forward."

The business case for the TIF estimated that the four infrastructure projects highlighted could help create up to 7172 jobs. It was also estimated that an additional inward investment of between 72m and 206m could be generated.

However, the estimates were based on there also being a tram connection linking the area with the city centre and Edinburgh Airport.

Councillor Dawe admitted that - as the legal dispute with contractor Bilfinger Berger rumbled on - there were "too many unknowns" at this stage to know how much it would cost to complete the tram project.A new council report published today indicates that a TIF executive group will now be established to draw up more detail on the "investment case" of each infrastructure project, as well as costs and timing.

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