THE route of Edinburgh's proposed third tram line in the south of the city is to be safeguarded against future housing developments for at least ten years.
City leaders have announced they will protect the land through the planning process, which will block any building work on the ill-fated route until the local plan for the city expires in 2015.
The Scottish Executive, which has promised 375 million for Edinburgh's tram project, has ruled out funding for Line Three. But the city council has refused to give up on the proposals and now plans to secure the route from Princes Street to Newcraighall, which goes via Cameron Toll, the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and Fort Kinnaird.
The move was today backed by opposition councillors and environmental campaigners.
Transport leader Councillor Andrew Burns said there is still an "aspiration" to introduce Line Three, and claimed the best way to win future funding was by making Edinburgh's first two tram lines a success.
Line One and Line Two, which will cost 473m, could receive Royal Assent by December this year, paving the way for the reintroduction of trams by 2009.
Line Three was originally scheduled for completion two years later, but with a lack of funding from the Executive, the city council was dependent on cash from its road tolls project. A referendum in February this year ended its controversial plans.
Cllr Burns said: "We have not abandoned our aspirations and we want to keep the idea of Line Three alive by securing the route through the planning process.
"The best way to make Line One a reality in the long-term is to make Tram Lines One and Two a success. This has been shown in Croydon where they are now expanding the trams service. We are certainly not killing Edinburgh's third tram line."
The route will be secured in the draft of the new Edinburgh city local plan, which is due to go out to consultation later this year.
When adopted, the plan will replace five existing local plans and will cover the main urban area of the city.
Line Three was often viewed as the most important of the city's tram routes, serving the ERI, the biomedical park at Little France, housing in Greendykes and the park-and-ride at Newcraighall Station.
Following the road tolls referendum defeat, some campaigners called for the council to scrap the Line Two extension to Edinburgh Airport - already served by buses and earmarked for a new fast rail link - and pursue the south Edinburgh option instead.
Dr Dan Barlow, head of research at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "The future proofing of Line Three is excellent forward thinking and this is what we have come to expect from a city council that is committed to delivering better public transport.
"It's a shame that the line can't be delivered right now."
Lib Dem transport spokesman on the council, Phil Wheeler, said: "I hope that in due course funds will be available for Line Three, but we need to get something up and running first. Hopefully, we can then expand the system once people have come round to the idea."
An Executive spokeswoman said: "If Edinburgh City Council were to come back to us with a viable business case and proposal, it would be considered.
"But as it stands, there is no money for Line Three."