LEADING business figures in Leith have urged city chiefs to extend the tram line to Newhaven – completing the hacked-back route that was first proposed more than a decade ago.
Last week councillors agreed in principle to push ahead with the £162 million project to take the trams down Leith Walk, but the scheme has been met with fierce opposition from people who claim it would cost too much.
Now a joint letter to the News has seen a host of big names throw their weight behind the project.
Leith Chamber of Commerce, Forth Ports Limited, Port of Leith Housing Association, Ocean Terminal, Royal Yacht Britannia and The Kitchin Restaurant all said completing the extension was “absolutely the right thing to do”.
Bob Downie, chief executive of the Royal Yacht Britannia, said: “The trams have the potential to have the greatest socio-economic impact on Leith since the construction of the docks themselves, and it would be great for North Edinburgh if the Newhaven to Granton and Roseburn loop could be completed one day”.
Charles Hammond, group chief executive of Forth Ports, said: “The tram extension would be a major asset to Leith and Newhaven.
Completing the extension to Leith and Newhaven is absolutely the right thing to doLeith business leaders
“Not only would it further enhance the waterfront in Leith but from our cruise-business point of view, it would be an invaluable transport connection for the thousands of passengers we welcome to Leith and Newhaven each year, all of whom deliver significant financial benefits for the city as a whole.”
The business leaders said the “Newhaven link is the right move for the Capital”.
In a statement, they added: “As key business and community interests working in Leith and North Edinburgh we, the undersigned, wish to urge the City of Edinburgh Council to recognise that completing the extension of the tram to Leith and Newhaven is now absolutely the right thing to do. Nearly five million passengers over the past year have enjoyed a highly reliable service and 95 per cent of them are satisfied with it. Extending the tram to Newhaven would be building on the success of this.”
The group said it was “convinced” the link is “needed” to make the city more accessible for shoppers, visitors and commuters.
It also stated the plan would make the city “less polluted and congested”.
The business leaders said as the area was “one of the UK’s most densely populated” this meant “efficient and reliable public transport” was a necessity, even with a £126m blackhole in council coffers.
The group said that despite the economic woes, it was “precisely the time” to extend to benefit the economy. Under the proposals, the initial works would be funded by £5m in dividend cash and a further £20 million “extraordinary dividend” from Lothian Buses.