the case for taking Edinburgh’s tram line further than just the city centre to the airport is cast iron.
That is just as true today as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow. The current line is far shorter than it was ever envisaged being and therefore makes no economic sense. It does not serve anywhere near enough of the city and does not even run through any of the biggest centres of population. As a result, it is likely to remain a financial millstone round the city’s neck.
Taking the line to Newhaven is the obvious next step. It makes perfect sense to link the city’s most populated neighbourhood – Leith Walk and Leith – with its biggest areas of employment in the west of the city.
It not only makes the tram a viable option for tens of thousands more people, it also transforms the line’s financial prospects at a stroke.
The strength of the argument for extending the line is acknowledged by everyone involved, including the city’s two largest political parties, the SNP and Labour. All accept that taking the trams to Newhaven is the right thing to do for Edinburgh. The principle is agreed. The tricky bit is how to get there.
Given the troubled history of the construction of the line there are bound to be plenty of concerns about taking the plunge again. That is only natural. It is vital of course that we learn the lessons of the past and ensure that the cost estimates are realistic and the contracts are properly nailed down this time.
But the performance of our stunted line to date does prove that there is an appetite for trams in Edinburgh.
The problem right now is one of perception as much as economics. Extending the line would do wonders for the regeneration of Leith and bring further environmental and social benefits for the city as a whole.
But in the midst of severe council cuts there is a feeling in some quarters that this is not the moment to take the plunge.
The 19th century German Chancellor Bismarck described politics as the art of the possible. We should hope for the future prospects of the Capital that it is possible for the extension of the tram line to go ahead without any real delay.