Passenger services on Edinburgh’s new tram line to Newhaven launched today with the help of the community along the route.
The first paying customers boarded the service, operated by Edinburgh Trams, between Newhaven and Picardy Place (and onward to Edinburgh Airport) at 12pm midday.
To celebrate the occasion, a piper accompanied the first tram into the Picardy Place tram stop while members of Edinburgh’s Dance Base centre for dance performed a specially choreographed ‘tram ballet’. Council Leaders were joined by local school pupils to officially open the tram for service.
The 2.9 mile, eight stop route, which has been under construction since November 2019, has been delivered on schedule and within the £207.3m budget.
Over recent months rigorous testing to ensure the newly constructed line, software and signals work effectively and safely has included running trams at half and full speed and eventually to timetable, work to integrate signalling and interface with Edinburgh Trams’ control centre and driver familiarisation.
Council Leader Cammy Day said: “I’m delighted to be playing a part in this momentous occasion – the launch of tram passenger services between Picardy Place and Newhaven. It’s a real landmark moment for Edinburgh, as we bring this high capacity, sustainable and reliable service to the north of the city.
“I know many will share in my excitement, and optimism for the benefits this development will provide. We’ve already seen vast improvements to spaces along the route and long-term I’m looking forward to the impact it will have on the local economy, which even now we’re starting to see.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those who live and own businesses along the route. They have shown such patience and resilience shown throughout this major, complex project and now I hope that they will really gain from the new service.
“This is also a chance to reflect on the hard work of those who have delivered this scheme. Thanks to the project team’s dedication, despite the challenges of recent years, I’m proud to say Trams to Newhaven has been delivered on time and within the £207.3m budget.”
Lea Harrison, Edinburgh Trams Managing Director, said: “The opening of the route will mark another momentous day for the city, and the entire Edinburgh Trams team stands ready to bring its acclaimed brand of service excellence to tens of thousands of new customers in the communities it serves.
“We’re also looking forward to delivering a real boost for local businesses, providing a convenient transport link between the city centre and some of Edinburgh’s most densely populated neighbourhoods, as well as key locations such as Ocean Terminal and Port of Leith.
“With trams from every seven minutes between 6am and midnight, seven days a week, our expanded tram timetable will help firms large and small to attract new business while helping their employees get to and from work.”
To mark the event, the earliest passengers were able to purchase a ‘platinum’ tram tickets from machines at Picardy Place and Newhaven tram stops while Pulse of the Place, a 30 strong vibrant youth samba band based in north Edinburgh, performed around the Newhaven tram stop.
The Guard of Honour from the High Constabulary of the Port of Leith to welcomed the tram into the historic Burgh of Leith wearing full parade dress, including top hats, whistles and ceremonial batons.
While the project opened for revenue services today, outstanding public realm works will continue in some sections.
Maria Ortega, Project Director on SFN JV, said: “This is a proud day for the Sacyr Farrans Neopul (SFN) JV team as we celebrate the new line coming into operation. We started work on Edinburgh Trams York Place to Newhaven four years ago, tasked with the delivery of one of the most important and complex light rail projects in the UK. Today we can say that we have achieved that vision successfully.
“I would like to thank the relentless efforts of our team throughout unprecedented times and recognise the power of the ongoing collaboration we have had with our client, our partners and our supply chain.
“It has been a privilege to operate within the communities of Leith and Newhaven and we extend our thanks to the local community.
“We hope that the City of Edinburgh will now begin to benefit from the wide-ranging social and economic benefits that a project of this significance will bring.”
James Corrigan, UK Managing Director of Infrastructure at Turner & Townsend, said: “In connecting Edinburgh to Newhaven, the opening of the new tram line represents an incredible achievement for everyone involved. This is a significant accomplishment in delivering a greener way of travelling and bringing existing and new communities closer together.
“As a key part of the programme team, I am immensely proud of the integral contribution that our people have made to the project from its early stages through to the tram’s successful opening.”
Cath Leech, Managing Director of Anturas Consulting, said: “Anturas Consulting has been involved with Trams to Newhaven from the start and it is fantastic to be part of the team that has delivered such an important project for the city. This line will help deliver economic, social and environmental benefits to Edinburgh and secure a sustainable legacy for future generations.”
Harald Tobermann, spokesperson for Community Councils Together on Trams, said: “Having engaged with the Trams to Newhaven Project Team over the last five years, we are well aware of the many issues that had to be overcome to deliver the project’s key objective - a tramline from York Place to Newhaven - on time and on budget. A great deal of credit for this success is due to the excellent team of people that managed this project including the CEC staff seconded to the project team.
“Our acknowledgement of this significant achievement is mixed with relief that this marks the end of more than 12 years of nearly continuous major construction works - the original tram works, the subsequent remedial works, and the latest 32-months TTN project - disrupting life for residents and businesses in our area. We also note that there is still work to be done to complete the overall project and ensure that the project delivers the wider benefits for our communities.
“We take comfort from the repeated assurances we have received from the project team, CEC officials and the Transport Convenor that our serious concerns regarding outstanding public realms works, design issues, as well as on-going maintenance of the newly created public assets will be managed and addressed with the required energy, focus and resources over the two-year defects period and beyond, thus preparing the ground for future tram lines to be built in Edinburgh.”
Jim Hollington, Chief Executive Officer at Dance Base, said: “At Dance Base we want to get everyone dancing, so the opening of Trams to Newhaven is a great way to connect us with people in the north of Edinburgh. Our home on the Grassmarket is only 11 minutes’ walk from Princes Street tram stop. To celebrate the opening, dancers in our ballet beginners and improvers classes, along with their friends from Dance for All have created a tongue in cheek ‘ballet of the trams’ to celebrate the occasion!”
Rohan Seliman, who leads Pulse of the Place, said: “The first new Trams to Newhaven is historic, so to have youth drummers from Pulse of the Place to give the first passengers a rapturous welcome is an honour.”