New tram link to Newhaven is 'on budget'? Don't be so sure – John McLellan

Leith folk must be agog with anticipation for the Newhaven tram opening, on time and on budget, for spring, as we have been repeatedly assured.
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Well, June 21 might just qualify as spring and the tram is running, even if only 5mph trial runs, so shouldn’t sceptics like me be tucking into our headgear? But then there’s the money.

Today Edinburgh Council is likely to approve a payment of £121,495 to retain a consultancy which has worked on the project throughout, which is apparently OK because it’s within the budget. But the £207m budget was actually £196m, and an £11m “optimism bias” was added, which has presumably been eaten up because, according to today’s report, the contract extension is due to “the impact of Covid-19 and the War in Ukraine”.

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But there are no details. Anturas Consulting, run by ex-council employee Rob Leech, will provide “support and challenge within the client team”, aka the council and Transport for Edinburgh, but there is no more information, not even a contract length.

A test tram makes its way along Elm Row at walking paceA test tram makes its way along Elm Row at walking pace
A test tram makes its way along Elm Row at walking pace

There is another problem, because the 2019 business case projected an additional £7.5m would be needed from reserves if passenger numbers fell five per cent below expectations, but recent Transport Scotland data shows public transport use is down 50 per cent on pre-pandemic levels, and the Scottish Retail Consortium has revealed only one civil servant in 20 is back working in person at Victoria Quay.

Just as well the tram can bring all those tourists straight to Leith from the airport. Just don’t tell the locals.

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