Edinburgh tram extension: These are the first tram tracks to be laid in Leith Walk

The first tram tracks have been laid in Leith Walk as the extension of the route from York Place to Newhaven progresses.

Thursday, 18th February 2021, 11:46 am

The rails embedded in their concrete base have appeared amid the clutter of the roadworks nearly a decade after the initial plan to take trams to Newhaven was abandoned.

The promise of a speedy modern link from the waterfront to the city centre was scrapped as the cost of the original tram project soared and the route was cut short at York Place.

Residents and traders in and around Leith Walk had suffered prolonged disruption while the road was dug up to divert underground pipes and cables in preparation for the trams and some businesses were forced to close before the plug was pulled on that part of the project.

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The first tram tracks have been laid on Leith Walk. This picture is taken from near the Brass Monkey pub. Pic: Andrew O'Brien

But now the route to Newhaven has been revived and is beginning to take shape, with other sections of track already laid elsewhere.

Edinburgh Trams says the £207 million extension is set to take the first passengers to and from Newhaven in spring 2023.

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said: “We’re continuing to make great progress on the Trams to Newhaven project and with the first tracks in the ground on Leith Walk, as well as Ocean Terminal and Tower Street, we’re really beginning to see the route take shape.

“Despite challenging circumstances, including a 12-week shutdown in March due to the pandemic, we’re still on track to begin running services in spring 2023, in line with original plans. This is in addition to the findings of our updated final business case, which demonstrates that the economic case for the scheme still stacks up in light of these challenges.”

The extension will add 4.69 kilometres – or 2.91 miles – of track to the existing route in both directions, with eight new stops along the way.

Construction began in November 2019 but had to be halted for three months last year because of Covid, starting up again in June. Edinburgh Trams says work is now progressing well.

Transport vice convener Karen Doran said: “As well as the visible progress being made on track-laying, elsewhere the scheme is making great strides, with ground excavations more than 50 per cent complete and a consultation underway on a cycle route between the Foot of the Walk and Ocean Terminal. Soon we’ll also see the return of some of the area’s much loved art work, including the Leith Walk pigeons and London Road clock.”

Alejandro Mendoza Monfort, director of Sacyr Farrans Neopul (SFN), the main infrastructure contractor, said: “We are delighted with our progress despite the challenges we have faced since the outbreak of coronavirus. The SFN team continue to make great progress, with main infrastructure works ongoing across the route. In particular track works are ongoing and moving at a steady pace with a large proportion of tracks works being installed from London Road to McDonald Road and within the Pilrig to Dalmeny Street phasing of works on Leith Walk . Track works are ongoing within the Ocean Terminal and Tower/Baltic Street phasing of works.

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