Edinburgh Trams to Newhaven route takes passengers for the first time after more than three years in the making
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Hundreds of people attended the launch of the new tram line from the top of Leith Walk to Newhaven today as it carried passengers for the first time – nine years after the first tram route opened in 2014.
Departing Picardy Place at 12pm, there was a sense of jubilation as locals boarded the tram to the sound of bagpipes with a local dance group performing a specially devised ‘tram ballet’ at the tram stop. Shortly before departure, council leaders joined local school pupils and tram staff to cut the celebratory ribbon as the tram made its debut down Leith Walk – 67 years after the last tram carrying passengers travelled down the road.
The arrival of the £207.3m project, that adds three miles of track to the existing route, comes after three and a half years of construction, and includes significant changes to public realm spaces, road infrastructure and utilities, the introduction of eight new tram stops and 215 overhead line poles.
Speaking at the launch, Hannah Ross, senior responsible officer for the project, said: “It’s an incredibly proud moment for me and the whole team. We totally appreciate the disruption for the local community and to be able to share it today with the public who can finally get the value of having this tram system available to them is a great feeling.
“The amount of growth that we have seen whilst working in and around Leith has been incredible and I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for people who live and work here to access other parts of the city and of course for Edinburgh to explore Leith.”
Commuters broke into applause and cheers as the tram sounded its trademark bell and began to make its way down Leith Walk. The popularity of the inaugural service saw the crowd stand shoulder to shoulder in the jam packed tram – with few people able to board the tram as it made stops along the route. Those who could squeeze on board were both surprised and delighted to find a piper playing crowd favourites to passengers, including Sunshine on Leith and ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 miles).’
The Guard of Honour from the High Constabulary of the Port of Leith, marked the occasion at the by standing in full parade dress, including top hats, whistles and ceremonial batons near Pilrig Street to welcome the tram to the historic Burgh of Leith.
Council leader Cammy Day said the milestone moment was ‘a great day for the people in Leith and Newhaven and the whole city.’ Cllr Day said public realm works will be completed this year with the design of Picardy Place expected to be open to the public in the coming months. The council leader added ‘I know the trams will bring more economic benefit to Leith and the wider city.’
Transport convener Scott Arthur acknowledged the disruption caused by the project to residents and businesses in recent years but believes uptake of the new route will increase by 50 per cent in the coming weeks and the north of the city will begin to see the economic benefits. He said: “There is new development right along the new route and part of that is there because of the tram. We heard from some traders on the tram route yesterday who were looking forward the arrival of the tram and think they will have more people come into their café or local shop. We want that to happen right across the line.”
Cllr Arthur added the new tram route will play a role to achieve the council’s target of achieving net zero emissions by 2030. Cllr Arthur said: “It takes a lot of vehicles off the road so that’s really positive to address climate change and the tram will reduce congestion.”