Edinburgh tram extension: arguments for and against

Today, councillors will decide whether to extend Edinburgh’s tram line to Newhaven - at a cost of £207 million.

An Edinburgh Tram at York Place. Picture: TSPL

It is a controversial decision which will undoubtedly divide the city.

Here are two opposing viewpoints:

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John Donnelly, chief executive, Marketing Edinburgh

Working on the 2050 Edinburgh City Vision resident campaign project over the last year truly focused my mind on what my hopes and aspirations are for the future of Edinburgh.

We need to be ambitious, we need to be inclusive and we need to be sustainable.

The most obvious benefit of the new tram route is its green credentials. City centre traffic is on the rise, up 6.5 per cent on last year. This is not a trend we can afford to continue. A more efficient infrastructure will encourage more people to use public transport, helping to cut harmful pollution and reduce congestion.

And trams are people friendly. They improve accessibility and help make Edinburgh a more liveable city, connecting residents directly to jobs. The new route will also play a significant role in helping Edinburgh achieve sustainable growth in the tourism sector. In managing our visitor numbers, one of our biggest challenges and opportunities for Edinburgh is to encourage them to explore further afield in the city. Trams will do that.

We all remember the frustrations, wasted time and money that dogged the first tram development.

Yet, I’m an optimist. We need a little trust that discerning lessons have been taken on board and that the same mistakes won’t be made. Five years on since the first tram pulled out of Gogarburn, they are now an integral part of our city infrastructure, used by increasing numbers year on year.


Gillian Gloyer, Liberal Democrats transport spokesperson

I like the trams. I use them often. I wish the Liberal Democrats’ proposal for the original full line from the airport to Leith had not been defeated back in 2011.

But we are where we are, and where we are is an environment of great uncertainty.

The first elephantine uncertainty is Brexit. As I write, we do not know if we will be falling out the EU in a fortnight’s time, or if the shambles of the last two years will go on for another couple of months. The one thing we can be sure of is that any kind of Brexit will impact on the labour-force, on the exchange rate, on airport passenger numbers.

The financial case for the tram extension depends almost entirely on an additional dividend from Lothian buses of £20 million over ten years.

But what if the Lothian buses board decides it would rather spend some of the money on replacing its fleet? Or on improving bus services to parts of the Capital not served by trams?

I’m sure the council’s SNP/Labour administration wishes Lord Hardie had reported by now, but he hasn’t.

The project team made commendable efforts to incorporate the evidence given to the inquiry, but the fact remains that we do not know what Lord Hardie will recommend.

What would the cost implications be of any conditions he might propose for new tram projects? We don’t know.

For now, there are too many unanswered questions.

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