Edinburgh Tram Extension should terminate in the City Chambers

Edinburgh Tram Extension should terminate in the City Chambers, rather than Newhaven writes Councillor Nick Cook

Many councillors seem committed to extending the tram it at any cost. But Conservatives believe the Council should terminate this vanity project and focus on the real priorities facing the capital.

An already expensive project previously estimated to cost £165m, the tram extension has now ballooned in cost to £257m.

For context, the extension would cost £93m per mile while the original project, which ran three times over budget, was eventually delivered for £89.2m per mile.

The cost is even more ludicrous when you factor in that we already own the tram cars, tracks and substations.

Astoundingly, despite previous works endured by Leith businesses, there are still around 1200 conflicts below the Walk.

The Edinburgh Tram Inquiry rumbles on, yet Edinburgh Council’s SNP/Labour administration confidently assert they have learned the lessons of the previous project.

But the proposed extension is already subject to years of delayed decision and big cost increases. The Inquiry conclusions are fundamental.

Lothian Buses and its passengers will pay dearly. The tram extension remains predicated upon a £20 million raid of Lothian Buses’ coffers and on passengers migrating from bus to tram.

The business case is clear the project presents significant logistical and financial challenges for Lothian Buses. Fewer services means passenger reductions, and increases in fares.

It’s worth noting that 91% of Leith residents are already happy with public transport provision in their area. Still, we all agree we must deal with a growing city and associated pollution.

Rather than pour money into the tram, some of the £20m dividend could help deliver a world-leading green bus fleet, alongside road and public realm improvements which ease congestion and make it easier for the bus network to drive our city.

Future ticket sales revenue from the existing tram line could be better ploughed into improving public services - including building schools - rather than used to pay off the costly borrowing needed to fund the extension.

Let’s be clear. Contrary to SNP/Labour claims, spending money extending the tram is a political choice, not a case of money for trams or no money at all.

It’s time they made the right decision to see all of Edinburgh succeed in future, by terminating the tram extension in the city chambers, not Newhaven.