Comment: Time to finish off trams

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Sir Tom Farmer has been on quite a tram journey - from sceptic to committed supporter.

Having seen the popularity of the truncated route we have built, he is now convinced we must find a way to take the trams to Newhaven.

He is not alone in making that switch. And he is right. It is time to finish off the job.

Leith has already suffered most of the pain following the massive disruption of recent years. Is there to be no gain at the end of it? That would be a travesty.

But it is not just Leith that would benefit from completing the link from the airport to Newhaven. Edinburgh is a growing city, the fastest growing in Scotland, and the population is expected to rocket by more than a quarter over the next 25 years.

As well as housing all these people, we need to find a better way of getting them around the city, to avoid the prospect of gridlock. The trams offer an efficient and environmentally-friendly way of doing just that, taking cars off the roads, connecting our biggest housing areas with our largest centres of employment, cutting congestion and pollution.

Just look at the existing line – or half a line as it is in reality. It only runs from the city centre to the airport, it doesn’t pass through any major areas of population – but it is still so popular that it is over-crowded.

Taking the tram to Newhaven would take it straight through the most densely populated neighbourhood in Scotland, Leith Walk, where it would be surrounded by potential customers.

Then there is the potential for kick-starting development on the Waterfront, creating thousands of new jobs and desperately needed new homes.

We were always told a major infrastructure project like this would spark further investment in Edinburgh. And so it has proved. The surge of development along the existing line, including the game-changing St James Quarter, proves this is no pipe dream.

There will always be concerns about what might happen in the worst-case scenario, especially after the debacle of the original construction project, but we now know there is strong demand for trams in Edinburgh. We also know the potential pitfalls. The six-year timescale proposed, for instance, allows plenty of time to nail down watertight agreements with contractors.

This is a time when our city councillors must rise above party politics. They should vote on Thursday to finish off the job – because it is the right thing to do for Edinburgh.