​Tram system will prove to be a big asset for the city - Cammy Day

A tram on Princes Street in Edinburgh. Picture: PAA tram on Princes Street in Edinburgh. Picture: PA
A tram on Princes Street in Edinburgh. Picture: PA
​As a council, we’ve co-operated fully with Lord Hardie’s Edinburgh Tram Inquiry since its inception nine years ago and have always maintained that its outcomes will be beneficial in informing investment in similar major transport infrastructure projects, both here in Edinburgh and by other local authorities.

We’ll consider our response and any actions required based on the findings and report back to Transport Committee in November and then our council meeting in December.

From a first reading of the report it’s clear that serious mistakes were made and that this had a significant impact on the city. There’s no getting away from the fact that the original project caused a great deal of disruption to residents and businesses, as well as damaging the city’s reputation and on behalf of the council, I want to apologise for this.

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I won’t, however, apologise for building a tram system or for our ambition to develop it further. After all, creating a better connected, environmentally friendly transport system is essential for a modern, successful city and we need to transform the way people move around if we are to achieve our net zero goals.

Equally, we shouldn’t forget that, in the nine years since the line between Edinburgh Airport and York Place was built, the service has flourished to become a hugely successful transport route for thousands of residents and visitors each day.

We’ve now launched passenger services on the completed line to Newhaven, the success of which was down to the hard work of the in-house project team and partners, but also thanks to lessons learned from the first project.

Prior to the announcement of the Inquiry, and towards the closing stages of the first project, we’d already introduced a raft of changes to project management and governance, which also proved crucial to the successful implementation of the current Trams to Newhaven project.

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In developing the Trams to Newhaven route, clear, timely communication has been key, both between project managers, contractors and elected members but also residents, businesses and other stakeholders. The final business case built on months of extensive consultation on the designs and plans, updating and amending them in response to feedback so that they meet the community’s needs.

We’ve drawn on the experience of skilled project managers throughout, with a particular focus on securing independent oversight and expert advice at every stage. The establishment of a tram board incorporating independent members, for example, has allowed effective scrutiny, while taking on board the advice of industry experts, such as Professor Bent Flyvbjerg, helped us to take full account of the risks involved.

We made every effort to minimise disruption and, throughout construction, kept local people, businesses and elected members informed through regular updates, responding to concerns and questions.

The new route’s already proving to be extremely popular, with passenger numbers doubling in the first few weeks and August clocking in as Edinburgh Trams’ best ever month, with more than 1.2m customer journeys recorded.

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We’re already looking at options for expanding the network further – to the north and south of the city, and potentially also to neighbouring authorities – and it’s encouraging to see this is very much part of the Scottish Government’s plans too.

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