Edinburgh trams: Residents have 'fallen in love with trams' since Newhaven line opened, claims Scott Arthur

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People in Edinburgh have "slowly fallen in love" with the city's trams since the extension of the line to Newhaven was opened last year, transport convener Scott Arthur has claimed.

He said much of the "negativity" surrounding the initial tram project had gone and residents were enjoying using the trams. "The main complaint I get from people about the tram is they can't get on the thing," he said.

Transport convener Scott Arthur says it is hoped one million people a month will use the Newhaven tramline in the coming yearTransport convener Scott Arthur says it is hoped one million people a month will use the Newhaven tramline in the coming year
Transport convener Scott Arthur says it is hoped one million people a month will use the Newhaven tramline in the coming year

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The tram route was originally intended to be built all the way from the airport to Newhaven as part of the same project, but escalating costs led to the line being stopped in the city centre.  The line from the airport to York Place opened in May 2014, three years late and millions of pounds over budget. A public inquiry found there had been  “a litany of avoidable failures” throughout the project.

But the extension of the line from the city centre to Newhaven, adding three miles of track and eight new tram stops, opened in June 2023 and was completed within its £207 million budget.

Cllr Arthur said the new line was being well used. "We're hopeful that this year it will carry around a million people a month on average."

And he said: "Since that line has gone live, I think people have slowly fallen in love with the tram a bit.  They have given up on some of the negativity that we used to have around the old project and they have seen the part it can play."

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He said the new line had accelerated growth in North Edinburgh, bringing investment to the city, which encouraged him about the plans for a new north-south tram line running from Granton to the Royal Infirmary and BioQuarter.

"That's really why we want to push ahead with that second tramline - to accelerate growth, investment in homes, communities and in jobs in the city and in the wider city region."

A report to the transport and environment committee says it is still too early to assess the numbers likely to be using the trams in the wake of Covid and changed working and travel patterns. It notes that the pre-pandemic projections were for a total 15.7 million journeys - 8.7m on the existing system and 7m on the extension.

The report continues: “The patronage on the completed line for the period from the opening of the line to Newhaven in June to December was 6.6 million. Tram patronage is higher than projected in the final business case for journeys to the airport. However, the city zone is lower than was projected, which reflects the impact of Covid-19 on commuter working practices.

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“Patronage budgeted by Edinburgh Trams for 2024 is circa 11.2m passengers, although performance in the first two periods of this year is exceeding this target.”

Any reduction in fare revenue will inevitably have an impact on the finances of the trams, but officials say borrowing costs are lower than projected because rather than the expected 4.1 per cent interest rate, the average interest rate was 2.33 per cent.

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