SORTING out the future of Edinburgh’s tram line was never going to be straightforward.
The construction of the existing line was so plagued with problems that there was always going to be doubts and hesitations about extending it. The last thing anyone wants is for the city to be saddled with even bigger debts and even less prospect of paying them off.
The business case for the tram extension has to stack up before the city can contemplate spending up to £145 million more of public money on taking the line to Leith. The concerns of the SNP group on the city council are entirely understandable given the history of the scheme and the huge amounts of money involved.
This is a decision that the council simply has to get right. Councillors from all political parties must spend the time before next week’s crucial vote going through the details and ramifications of the business plan with a fine toothcomb. For if there is one thing that is clear about the decision facing them – it is not an easy one.
Choosing to vote down the extension plans might seem like the safe option, particularly at a time when Edinburgh is facing growing financial problems. But it is not an easy way out of this tricky conundrum. Doing nothing carries serious risks for the city, perhaps just as much as investing in an extension.
There is no prospect of the existing stunted line from the airport to York Place ever being anything other than a major drain on the public purse. If that is ever to change, the city needs to invest further. Then there is the potential for a Leith link to kickstart private investment in the port to consider. The potential benefits of extending are clear, but the risks are too.
This is a time for cool heads and calm deliberation. Right now, Edinburgh needs leaders who can rise above party politics and make the best decision for the good of the whole city.