Edinburgh tram extension: November start date for construction of £207m project

The Capital has been told to brace itself for three years of upheaval as work finally starts on the city’s tram extension to Newhaven.

Construction of the £207m tram extension to Newhaven will begin next month as the Capital gets set for three years of potential traffic and public transport disruption in the north of the city.

Transport and environment convenor Lesley Macinnes announced work will begin on Constitution Street on November 18 with trams still on target to be operational by Spring 2023.

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Work will begin in two sections of Constitution Street between Foot of the Walk to Coatfield Lane and the north junction of Queen Charlotte Street to Constitution Place.

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This is when each section of Edinburgh's new tram extension will be built

There will also be so-called ‘enabling work’ on Leith Walk between Manderston Street and London Road from the same November 18 date.

Council has 'examined every possible detail'

The announcement follows six months of intense planning between the City of Edinburgh Council and contractors which aim to avoid the problems faced by the original tram project.

Cllr Macinnes said the pre-construction work has allowed the council to “examine every possible detail” of the construction process.

The time-frame has allowed contractors and the council to undertake ground and site investigation works to determine conditions along the route as well as dialogue with residents and conducting a comprehensive survey of traders' needs.

She said: “That period has allowed us to do an enormous amount of complex partnership work with the contractors to examine every possible detail of how we proceed.

“I’m well aware of how complex the process has been in the last six months and how hard our contractors and our tram team have worked to get us to this stage where we can go into this construction stage with a great deal of confidence.”

Leith Walk to go down to one lane in April 2020

Project director Rob Leech added that during the ‘enabling work’ on Leith Walk will have traffic travelling in both directions during the work.

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It means Leith Walk will not go down to a single lane until April next year. No details as to diversions off Leith Walk or the surrounding streets have been released.

Describing the nature of the construction which will begin in November, Mr Leech said: “Traffic management will be put in place, then we will commence the excavation works and the utility works starting in Constitution Street.

“We will also be starting some enabling work between London Road and Manderston Street which involves moving kerb lines, taking out parking bays to create the running lane that we need to then come in and do the main work on Leith Walk next year.”

Trams will be 'transformative'

Depute council leader Cammy Day said the full extent of the support offered to business, which includes a £2.4m fund, will be communicated in the New Year and said the extension would be “transformative” for Leith and North Edinburgh.

He added: “This thorough, collaborative and open approach is exactly how we mean to go on, striving to keep disruption to a minimum and helping maintain the vibrancy and attractiveness of the area as a place to live, visit and shop.”

Construction for the entire extension is due to take three years with the final rails being laid in Summer 2022 before testing and commissioning takes place.

Trams should be running with passengers between the Airport and Newhaven by Spring 2023 if construction runs to time.

On track to hit £207m budget

As it stands, the cost of the extension is still on track to be within the projected budget of £207.3m included in the final business plan.

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Alejandro Mendoza Monfort, project director at contractors SFN JV, said they were “delighted” about the announcement construction is due to begin.

He said: “At every point during delivery, we will pay close attention to maintaining the highest levels of safety and quality.

“We will ensure the needs of the community and local businesses are central to our plans, to ensure they experience minimum disruption.

“We are committed to ensuring we leave a positive lasting legacy to the community of Leith, Newhaven and the City of Edinburgh."

Peter Carolan, executive director of tram contractors Morrison Utility Services, said: “As we move to the next phase of the project our goal will be to build on the strong relationships formed with our construction partners and City of Edinburgh Council during the ECI period and deliver the project to the highest safety and delivery standards, while driving a positive customer experience.”