Trams are set to transform growing city - Council Leader & Depute Leader

Councillors Adam McVey and Cammy Day write in today's Edinburgh Evening News:

"We are unashamedly ambitious for the Capital – and rightly so. Later this month we’ll be publishing a report on next steps for the City Centre Transformation, which is all about putting people right at the heart of placemaking. Thousands responded to our first round of consultation on this, demonstrating the huge appetite locally to shape how Edinburgh looks, feels and functions for generations to come.

"Trams are a major element of making Edinburgh more people-friendly, enabling large numbers of people to get to and through the city accessibly and helping cut harmful pollution while reducing congestion.

"Running a leading – and growing – capital city requires politicians to make big decisions.

"In just over a week’s time, the Council will meet to set its budget for the coming year. Setting budgets is always a challenging process for local authorities, but especially so in these straitened times when some very difficult choices are required.

"Taking trams to Newhaven is entirely separate from the Council budget process, however. Fully funded from a special Lothian Buses dividend and future tram fares, the project would have no impact on other Council services.

"The business case is strong, as I’m sure members will acknowledge when they examine it in detail before the final decision is taken on 14 March. We’re being properly (some might even argue overly) prudent in terms of risk provision, taking on board fully the lessons of what went awry the first time round. And we’ll keep the project under intense scrutiny throughout to keep things on track.

"Edinburgh Trams have built an award-winning reputation since services launched in May 2014, with passenger numbers outstripping forecasts. The final business case outlines patronage almost doubling to just under 16 million in the first year of services between the Airport and Newhaven.

"We have to make sure Edinburgh has the infrastructure to continue to grow in a way that safeguards a sustainable future for our communities - so they can achieve their potential.

"As Scotland’s fastest growing city, things simply cannot continue as they are – Edinburgh’s transport system has to evolve to cater to a rapidly growing population.

"Growth forecasts for the city show 102,000 more people making it their home by 2039, with a quarter of this growth in the Leith docks and Western Harbour areas.

"Just this week, Rod Dennis of the RAC stated that “those cities that are best placed to grow will be those that are developing public transport systems that suit the needs of their citizens”.

"A tram to Newhaven would not only provide a direct link for the people of Newhaven and Leith to the city centre and out to the airport, but – as well as creating jobs during and after the project - would connect residents and visitors to major employment and travel hubs along the route.

"If we complete the original first line we would be unlocking a large area of the city for housing development and employment opportunities.

"We have an obligation to our current and future residents to help everyone share in Edinburgh’s success. Opening up the north of the city through a well-planned and self-financing tram route is a no-brainer. 

"We firmly believe the case stacks up for taking trams to Newhaven and that our fellow councillors will arrive at the same conclusion having had time to scrutinise it in detail.

"The benefits to the city are significant, the case is robust and we’re factoring in a very substantial risk allocation to keep things on track. More and more in the city are convinced this is the right direction for Edinburgh, if Councillors share that ambition we’ll deliver this project for the benefit of everyone in the Capital."

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