Edinburgh tram extension 'on track' to open on time, says council, despite claims of delays
Two-way traffic restored to Leith Walk ‘in coming weeks’
Council chiefs have insisted the tram extension to Newhaven remains on track to open in the spring despite some roadworks running late and speculation that testing of the new line could be delayed. They also said the work would be completed within the budget of £207.3 million set by the council in 2019.
The final piece of track on the extension from York Place in the city centre, down Leith Walk and on to Newhaven, was laid in December, three years after the project began. The extension will add nearly three miles to the existing tram line and see eight new stops opened.
One resident who has followed the progress of the work closely said he feared that, despite regular assurances the project was on schedule, there had been slippages in the timetable. “While they were able to claim that all the track was in place and all the tram poles erected by the end of 2022, clearly much of the associated road works are far from finished.”
The council had said Leith Walk would be fully reopened to two-way traffic before Christmas, but admitted in December that surfacing and paving works had been held up by a lack of concrete supply and freezing weather conditions, adding it hoped two-way traffic would be reinstated in January. The resident said he estimated there was still three or four weeks’ work to be done. He said: “The stretch of Leith Walk north of Pilrig Street remains closed to northbound traffic. The work at Elm Row to create the parking areas, footpaths and cycleways seems to have come to a complete halt. In Leith, the stretch of road along Ocean Drive past Rennie’s Isle and the Fingal hotel ship was supposed to be completed and reopened by the end of 2022, having been pushed back from October 2022, but kerb edging is only being installed now and pavements are not yet in place, and the Tower Place junction is far from finished, so all traffic diversions and temporary traffic lights remain in operation. There is also still much to do at Melrose Drive next to Ocean Terminal.”
He also voiced concern about possible delays to the trial running of trams on the new route. The council said in October that the complete line would be electrified in December. The resident said: “Tram testing from Picardy Place to Newhaven was supposed to start this month, but the testing cannot get underway until every overhead wire has been strung and tensioned, the wires ‘energised’, and the associated roadways completed, barriers taken down, and construction equipment removed out of the way. Again I would say we are at least four weeks from that stage. That may mean the project is only a fortnight or so behind, but I think it is probably rather more than that.”
However the council rejected talk of delays. A council said: “The project remains on time to be open for revenue in spring 2023 and within the £207.3m budget as agreed by council in March 2019. Two-way traffic will be returning to Leith Walk in the coming weeks. The trials have not been delayed and are scheduled to begin in the next few months – confirmation of a date will be issued in due course.”