Trams to Newhaven: a major driver for Edinburgh's economy - Cllr Macinnes

The Transport and Environment Convener Councillor Lesley Macinnes writes:

The last 20th century tram in Edinburgh ended its journey on Leith Walk on 16 November 1956, pulling into the Shrubhill Depot and signalling the end of tram travel in the Capital for another 58 years. Yesterday's decision to proceed with taking trams back to Leith and on to Newhaven is the latest milestone in our city’s public transport journey, and it can be achieved without putting any pressure on existing Council budgets. High tech 21st century trams, each carrying up to 250 passengers, will complement and support our excellent bus services so that we can move as many people as possible reliably and safely to and through the busy city centre, helping cut congestion and air pollution.

It’s not purely a transport project, though. This is about sustainable growth for Edinburgh – a city whose population is expanding faster than anywhere else in Scotland, with more than 100,000 additional residents forecast to call it home over the next 20 years. Rising population numbers present as many challenges as they do opportunities – more homes are needed (and we already have a chronic shortage), more schools, more support services and, of course, more public transport infrastructure. Trams to Newhaven will be a major driver for the economy of the whole city, opening up brownfield development opportunities in north Edinburgh for housing and local facilities, as well as connecting major employers to one of the most densely populated residential areas in Scotland where car ownership is comparatively low. 

We come to this project bearing the scars of what went wrong previously, but also having learned invaluable lessons to help us do things differently this time. Crucially, we’re taking a cautious approach, building in a substantial risk allowance into the project budget in case it’s required. And we’ll keep the whole process under minute scrutiny, working very closely with the community, with local businesses and with the contractors to get this right for the Capital.

There’s still a journey ahead of us, but trams are coming back to Leith and Newhaven – and with them, a bright new future for north Edinburgh.


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