Edinburgh north-south tramline: Call for pause on consultation as Scottish Government says next stage 'unaffordable'

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Plans for a public consultation on Edinburgh’s proposed new north-south tramline should be halted because of a £44 million "black hole" in funding, Lib Dems have said.

They claim there is no point in going any further with plans for the line from Granton to the Royal Infirmary and beyond after Transport Secretary Fiona Hyslop signalled the Scottish Government was unwilling to fund the next stage of the project.

Lib Dems are calling for the consultation on the new north-south tramline to be paused. Lib Dems are calling for the consultation on the new north-south tramline to be paused.
Lib Dems are calling for the consultation on the new north-south tramline to be paused.

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A letter from Ms Hyslop to Edinburgh Central MSP and fellow SNP Cabinet minister Angus Robertson said financial support from the Scottish Government for preparation of a business case was “not affordable in the current fiscal climate, nor in line with the recent recommendations of the Tram Enquiry”.

She suggested any extension should improve links with communities in neighbouring local authorities and ought to be seen in the context of wider mass transit and not just “tram in isolation”. And she added: “Given the current fiscal outlook, it may be that alternative public/private delivery model need to be explored.”

Edinburgh Lib Dem group leader Kevin Lang said: “This letter has delivered a gaping £44 million black hole in the tram extension’s finances.  The decision to proceed with a consultation was based on advice that Scottish Ministers would fund the next stage of the project. Fiona Hyslop’s letter shows this is simply not going to happen.

“The option of turning over the much-loved Roseburn path for the tram had already sparked huge concern and controversy.  From the thousands of people who have signed the local community petition, it is clear how much this important green corridor is to local people.

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 “However, it would be wrong to proceed with any public consultation when it’s unclear who or how the next stage of the project would be financed.  We now know it won’t be the Scottish Government and, given the state of local finances, it simply cannot be Edinburgh Council.  So the question is, who’s picking up the tab?

 “Given all this uncertainty, the planned consultation needs to be paused.  We shouldn’t be using council resource on a public consultation when we have no idea how the next stage would even be paid for.”

The Lib Dems have tabled an urgent motion for Thursday’s meeting of the council’s transport committee calling for the planned consultation to be paused 

But city transport convener Scott Arthur rejected the call. He said that since Ms Hyslop’s letter was sent, council officials had held constructive talks with the Scottish Government on how to take the project forward.

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He said: “As part of this process, different funding models are being considered to ensure the best outcome for the regional economy. I hope to be able to bring an update on this work to the transport and environment committee next month.“Scotland is at a crossroads where it’s response to the climate emergency is concerned, and investing in mass rapid transit in our capital city would be a massive step in the right direction.”

He said the planned extension did go into Midlothian at Shawfair and beyond the Infirmary “towards Dalkeith” as well as having potential links to Musselburgh in East Lothian.

He said the consultation was not due to take place until late summer and he added the council still hoped to secure funding from the government.

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