Edinburgh tram development put out to public consultation

Edinburgh Trams at Murrayfield (© Edinburgh Trams) (© Edinburgh Trams)

The Edinburgh tram system is beginning the long journey to a third stage of development. The controversial service, delivered over budget and late, has recently seen its single line extended into the north of the city. Now the local authority for the Scottish capital is seeking public opinion on the building of a second line. If approved, the tram would be extended with a north-south line, connecting the waterfront with developments in the south, around the city’s main hospital.

The public are to be asked for their opinions on a recommended route for a Granton to BioQuarter tram in Edinburgh. The public consultation will help inform the strategic business case for a second tram route in the city, with potential to extend beyond the city boundary into neighbouring communities.

Trams a hit despite controversy

Edinburgh has had a chequered relationship with its tram service. Fixed link public transport was reintroduced to the streets of the Scottish capital. Vastly over budget, and after years of delay and disruption, only one half of one line, out of a planned three line system, opened in 2014. Despite this, the tram has been a hit with residents, and a recent extension was completed, taking the line from the city centre to the northern suburb of Newhaven.

A tram passes Edinburgh Castle
A tram passes Edinburgh Castle

Now, the City of Edinburgh Council, the local authority, wants to further extend the system, by reviving plans for a second line, this time to connect another northern suburb, Granton, via the city centre, to the developing southern medical campus, designated BioQuarter. The plan would also see the tram extend beyond the city boundary, if fully approved by councillors this week. However, given the extensive public anger over the years of disruption during the delayed and late-running initial construction phase, the citizens of Edinburgh are to be given their say on the project.

New route would cross historic North Bridge

On Thursday (1 February), the city’s Transport and Environment Committee will discuss the recommended north – south tram line, which would extend the existing network between the Airport and Newhaven. This would run on currently disused heavy rail tracks through the north of the city, then use existing and new street running tracks through the south of the city to reach the BioQuarter. Further consideration is being given to potential future routes into neighbouring local authorities.

If the expected approval is given, a twelve-week consultation in spring 2024 would showcase the recommended route, and details of alternative options. However, the city Council has already admitted that these have been explored and counted out of the proposals. The chosen route would take trams over the historically important North Bridge, which has already been the subject of several years of restoration, and featured in a national TV documentary. It is likely that the construction of tram tracks over the city centre structure would cause a further extended period of congestion – a severe criticism of the two phases of tram works already undertaken. Despite this, Edinburgh Trams have won awards, and been popular once running. Last year, the single line carried more than nine million passengers along its 23 stops.

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Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is UK correspondent for RailTech.com and Railfreight.com

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