‘Pardon me if I don’t break out the bubbly’ - John McLellan

As the first passengers clambered aboard the first tram services to Newhaven yesterday, we were told it was a moment for celebration. Pardon me if I don’t break out the bubbly.
The new tram line to Newhaven (Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)The new tram line to Newhaven (Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
The new tram line to Newhaven (Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Instead, here’s a reminder of a few facts about this blighted project: It is not an extension – it is the completion of a line which was curtailed in 2011.

It is not on time. Services to Newhaven should have started in 2011 and even that was two years late. Work in Leith started in 2007. It is not on budget. The cost estimate for the Airport-Newhaven line in 2008 was £521 million and that has doubled.

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The three-mile completion project budget was £165m, with an extra £42m in contingencies which has been spent. The work has not been finished because there are still outstanding public realm works so costs could continue to rise.

The majority of Edinburgh residents will see few benefits from the new line, while Lothian Buses continues to cut services, like the recent decision to scrap the 41, and previously the 69 and the 6 which needed a council subsidy to survive.

It may bring benefits to the businesses which survived, but many did not, forced to the wall by 16 years of disruption. The council and contractors are still arguing about responsibility for a resident's house which is literally falling apart because of heavy construction.

But one consultancy, run by a former council employee, has been paid just under £900,000 for “community consultation and project assurance services.” At least someone can have a party.

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