Council anger at no new tram line funding

The end of the tram line at York Place. Picture: Jane Barlow
The end of the tram line at York Place. Picture: Jane Barlow
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A new row over tram funding has broken out between the city and the Scottish Government after the transport minister said Holyrood would support new tram projects across Scotland – except in Edinburgh.

City transport chiefs are reported to be “angry and disappointed” that Derek Mackay ruled out any financial assistance to extend the Capital’s ill-fated tram line before plans to take the route to Leith are even formally debated.

The Evening News understands senior transport bosses intend to request funding regardless of Mr Mackay’s comments, arguing that Edinburgh at least deserves equal consideration given its status as Scotland’s capital.

Over the weekend Mr Mackay said: “We are not 
anti-tram. If it fits in with public transport networks, we would support it.”

He then said that no additional funding would be provided for the Capital’s trams.

Scottish Government officials said that there would be no top-up of the £500 million put towards the initial project, which ran £375m over budget and was delivered three years behind schedule.

And they also made clear that the £61m being loaned to St James Quarter developers TH Henderson Real Estate “will not be used to fund trams”, despite the city’s ambition to create a transport interchange next to the £850m development.

A report outlining the options for extending the line and how much each would cost is due to come before the city’s transport committee to be signed off by councillors in June. Taking the tram as far as Newhaven is expected to cost in the region of £80m.

Councillor Lesley Hinds, transport convener, said: “When the Capital coalition took office we pledged to deliver the tram project to a revised budget and revised timescale and we did just that.

“The first nine months of passenger services have surpassed our expectations in terms of passenger numbers and we’re currently looking at a revised business case for extending the route Leith-wards.

“We look forward to working together with the Scottish Government to improve public transport links in the Capital.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said the city had been given £68m over the past three years and will receive another £13.7m next year.

The spokesman said: “Any plan for extending the current Edinburgh tram line is a matter for City of Edinburgh Council to consider in light of its own funding priorities. We do not intend to make any further contribution, having already paid £500m after parliament voted in favour of the project.

“Our separate grant for the redevelopment of the St James Quarter – which will support around 2300 permanent jobs and add £25m to the Scottish economy each year – will not be used to fund trams. The St James Quarter will have excellent transport links, being adjacent to Waverley station, Edinburgh Bus Station and the St Andrew Square and York Place tram stops.

“Edinburgh City Council receives its fair share of total local government funding. In 2014-15 its capital allocation amounts to almost £91m, with the council being able to decide how over £57m of this is to be spent.”