So when will trams make it down Leith Walk?

This week saw the release of a report to the City of Edinburgh Council on the latest “tram situation.” According to the short briefing from TIE, the report contained:

“…good news about a refresh of the 2007 Final Business Case and concludes that the option to deliver tram line 1A in phases is viable and enables Transport Edinburgh Ltd (TEL) to be profitable from day one. It also draws upon revised modelling of tram patronage figures which take account of the economic downturn and the likely need to phase the operational delivery of line 1A.”

To say that very few other people saw the report as good news would be something of an understatement. The Leith Business Assocation read this bit of the report:

Tram Report Quote

…and came to the conclusion that the tram would stop at St Andrews Square and wouldn’t reach Newhaven until 2031 as a consequence. In the Evening News, Alan Rutland, owner of Arkay Imaging and a vocal tram critic said:

“We have had three years of disruption and now ultimately, we will have no benefit for that and have just suffered the cost…That hurts.”

Indeed the prospect that the tram will not make it to Newhaven for many years to come will no doubt be a huge disappointment to most Leithers. We know from our own poll that a majority of Leith residents feel that the City of Edinburgh Council or the Scottish Government should beg, borrow or steal more cash to get the line finished to Newhaven.

It looks as though Leith, and indeed the City of Edinburgh Council, is caught in the midst of a huge multi-million pound chicken and egg conundrum. Without the tram to Newhaven regeneration activites along the Waterfront and along Leith Walk will take place much more slowly. Yet, slower regeneration on the docks undermines the business case for extending the tram to Newhaven.

Everthing still seems to hang on the stalled negotiations between TIE and Belfinger Berger. According to the Sunday Herald, the Managing Director of TIE, Richard Jeffery said:

“There hasn’t been as much progress on the project as we had anticipated. Given the current uncertainties, we are not in the business of revising projections at this time. The situation is less certain that it was in June.I won’t ask for more money until I am certain it’s required. We are in a position where we are saying that it’s unlikely there will be a commercial settlement in the near future and we are alerting the council to the fact that we may come back at some point with a recommendation to terminate the contract.”

However, does this mean that we may not see the trams make it to Newhaven for decades, as the LBA predict? The council has just been given the go-ahead to borrow a further £84 million pounds to kick start regeneration on the docks. Even if the tram makes a loss for a few years, we wonder whether there is a reasonable long term economic development case to complete the line to Newhaven quickly using borrowed money, if this brings forward more investment along the waterfront and Leith Walk. 

Until the deadlock is broken, Leith will remain in limbo. Do you think the trams will ever make it Newhaven? Should they? And what’s your take on the current situation?

  • Alan D Rudland

    Let me say that while I may be protrayed / viewed as a tram critic – I have never stated that I am opposed to the tram 'as a concept'. What I have been critical of, is the flawed business case on which it is founded, and the manner in which the construction has been undertaken, to the significant detriment of those living and working along the tram route.

    When I read the Tram Update, I was more annoyed by what it DIDN'T say then what it did say.

    The report does not state that the tram will terminate at St Andrew Square – it merely considers the viability of the service if it were to stop there.

    My comments on the 'hurt' experienced by businesses in Leith is based on the possibility of a truncated line.

    The viability (or otherwise) of the route to St Andrew Square is based on a revised business case, which tie and the council have declined to put into the public domain. Previous business cases have been released – refusal to release this one on the grounds that the patronage sttistics are 'commercially confidential' strikes me as suspicious. How can anyone make a reasoned decision in the absence of a robust set of demonstrable facts?

    In addition, the report does not give a timescale as to when the line would come to Leith in the event that the initial phase terminates at St Andrew Square. How are businesss supposed to make forward plans unless they know of potential upheavals of roadworks / benefits of the new tramline?

    In the absence of any hard information – I made a conjecture based on the little information which was included in the report concerning the recovery of developments at the waterfront. The instigation of the tram line originated with the waterfront development – if the development there does not return to its 2007 level (the date of the previous business case) until 2031, then I cannot see that the tram line will reach the waterfront until then.

    Who knows, there may be another phased implementatin which sees the tram run from St Andrew Square to Constitution Street… but until we get a REAL update it is all just conjecture.