Edinburgh tram extension: Tram route to Newhaven will go live soon, council says

The final sections of the track for Edinburgh’s £207 million tram extension are soon to be laid as the project prepares for the electrification of the full line.

Energisation of newly-installed overhead lines during November and December will allow a testing and commissioning period to begin at the start of 2023, which will see trams running along the route for the first time.

The first section to be electrified will be between St Andrew Square and Elm Row at the end of November, followed by the whole route to Newhaven tram stop in December.

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But in order for the energisation to take place, power to a section of the existing line will need to be isolated, resulting in a four-day period when tram services will stop at the West End.

The two final concrete pours on the project are due to take place this week at Rennie’s Isle and Melrose Drive. The Rennie’s Isle pour will be the longest of the project – 170 metres – and once completed will mean track has been laid all the way from Picardy Place to Newhaven, leaving only a small section at York Place to link the existing line with the new track.

The council says the project remains on schedule for completion by spring 2023 and within the £207.3m budget. All utility diversions have been completed and major civil works are finished on five of the eight new tram stops.

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However, due to industry wide challenges with the availability of materials and skilled labour, caused by Brexit and the war in Ukraine along with demand for labour in the UK and overseas, there are small pockets of public realm works that are now due to be completed in early 2023.

In the lead-up to overhead lines going live, a publicity campaign will remind residents and businesses about the changes, including safety requirements and permits needed to carry out any work on properties along the route.

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An aerial view of Leith Walk as the tram extension nears its final stages.

Transport convener Scott Arthur said: “Both the electrification of overhead lines along the entire Trams to Newhaven route and final concrete pours are major milestones for this important council project, and signal the final touches being made before we see trams on Leith Walk and beyond.

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“A great deal of work has gone into reaching this stage, as progress on tracklaying, completed sections and other elements shows. That the project is still on schedule for delivery on time and in budget is thanks to the efforts of the entire team involved, who have had to contend with a Covid-related site shutdown and industry-wide labour and material challenges over the last three years.

“Of course, I’m also appreciative of local residents and businesses for their patience during this time. I’m confident that the finished scheme will be extremely beneficial to the community, transforming the streetscape, boosting the economy and proving reliable, sustainable journeys to and from the city centre.”

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Maria Ortega, project director for contractors Sacyr Farrans Neopul (SFN), said: “We are excited to be reaching these key milestones which are critical to ensuring the delivery of the Edinburgh Trams to Newhaven line. Our efforts are firmly focused on ensuring that we continue to work in a safe and timely manner to deliver a high-quality end product.

“Despite the challenges of unprecedented times that we have experienced throughout the life cycle of the project we are proud of the progress we have made by working successfully alongside our partners, supply chain and client.”

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What’s been done so far on the Edinburgh tram extension

- Almost 4.5km (96 per cent) of tram track laid

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- 100 per cent of all utility diversions completed

- 4.3km (93 per cent) of communication ducting installed

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- 4.25km of power ducting installed

- 136 overhead line poles installed (64 per cent of the total)

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- Major civil works completed on both power substations (on Leith Walk and Melrose Drive)

- Over 67,000 deliveries from the logistic hubs to local businesses

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- Almost 28,000 itison vouchers sold, generating £280,000 spend in participating businesses on the route

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