Ex-Provost says Granton trams plan dead for now

An old tram on Lower Granton Road. Picture: Callum Bennetts
An old tram on Lower Granton Road. Picture: Callum Bennetts
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THE mothballed tram line to Granton Harbour has been effectively “laid to rest” and may never resurface “in our lifetime”, a former Edinburgh Lord Provost has claimed.

Veteran councillor Eric Milligan said the Roseburn corridor from Haymarket to Granton would be frozen for the “forseeable future or maybe forever” despite it being a central ­argument for approving the city tram line in the first place.

Known as the Granton spur, the route to Edinburgh’s waterfront was shelved at the height of the recession in 2009 amid soaring project costs and an increasingly volatile financial climate.

Announcing the Granton route’s demise, then council leader Jenny Dawe said the city would “revisit this as soon as economic conditions improve”.

But a landmark settlement to repay tram contributions collected for this doomed section of the network suggests the Granton spur is unlikely to be resurrected, according to Cllr Milligan.

Transport chiefs have refused to rule out a Granton extension insisting that the success of the initial passenger service – set to launch next month – will help determine future plans.

Cllr Milligan’s warning comes just weeks after the city paved the way to run the tram line to Leith by “future-proofing” improvements to Leith Walk with a £1 million cashpot which has been released to tailor roadworks towards the possible extension.

“I think its terribly sad that the clinching argument to go ahead with the trams has somehow been laid to rest and nobody else around the tale of the planing committee felt it necessary to say it,” said Cllr Milligan. “What is running right through this report is an acceptance that there’s not going to be a connection for the trams in the foreseeable future between the main line and Granton.

“That was a major argument for the whole project being supported in the first place. It is a kind of acceptance that the trams scheme the council approved is not in our lifetime going to be completed, far less moved or extended further.”

The Labour councillor – one of the longest-serving elected members at City Chambers – added that he would have preferred to fund the ­tram line between Leith and the city centre rather than the Gogar to York Place connection.

Echoing the councillor’s comments, Fred Marinello, chairman of Granton and District community council, said the tram line would have brought “jobs, a better standard of living and further 
integration” to the Capital’s waterfront.

“It’s a great disappointment that it’s not likely to happen,” he said. “There is no chance in the far distant future that we are going to see a tram system here. It’s a disgrace that most politicians are silent about this.

Transport convener Cllr Lesley Hinds said they won’t know how and when the tram line might be extended until the council has “had a chance to see how passenger services perform from May onwards”. A report is due to come before council before the end of 2014.