Revival of tram line 3 slammed despite economic benefits

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TRANSPORT leaders have been warned against resurrecting plans for a tram line to the south of the city, even though a new report said it would "unlock" economic growth in the area.

&#149 An artist's impression of the tram stop at the ERI

The report, commissioned by the council in partnership with Scottish Enterprise, Edinburgh University, NHS Lothian and tram firm TIE, said better transport links between the centre and the south-east of the city would provide a catalyst to "significant economic development".

It highlights tram line 3, now renamed the South Edinburgh Tram Line (SETL), as key to the area's future prosperity, although it makes clear that the case for expanding the tram system is currently "on hold".

But critics of the tram remain unconvinced. SNP Lothians MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville said: "It is vital that people get some answers to how much the first line is going to cost and when we will see a tram running. Tram line 3 had a much better business case than line one, but nobody is going to take it seriously until we know what's happening with the project.

"People will be cynical about tram line 3 when we've currently got just a piece of tram track on Princes Street for the best part of 500 million."

The study, which was carried out by consultants Steer Davies Gleave, found that significant transport improvements would be likely to bring forward development of the Edinburgh "BioQuarter" and that without a "step-change" in public transport phase four of the BioQuarter would be unlikely to proceed.

It says delivering the Borders Railway and improving Sheriffhall roundabout were also necessary developments.

Tram line 3, which would connect Princes Street with Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and the BioQuarter, was shelved after the "no" vote in the 2005 congestion charge referendum.

The route, which was initially priced at 198m, is said to have the strongest business case of any of the proposed lines.

Council chiefs hope the importance of attracting multinational firms to Little France will also allow any proposed transport scheme to attract funding from the Scottish Government.

The route has already secured planning approval.

City transport leader Gordon Mackenzie said: "TIE is focusing all its attention on resolving the dispute with the contractor and progressing the first tram line. The council, however, must address all aspects of the city's transport system.

"This report focuses on the south-east of the city, an area to which the Scottish Government has already committed considerable financial backing.

"It would be irresponsible for us not to explore all transport options for an area offering so much economic potential and quite bizarre to rule out a tram link as one of these options when we could potentially have the first part of a tram network running in a couple of years' time."