Edinburgh trams: Hopes government could fund new tram route from Granton to Dalkeith

Trams could go via Edinburgh’s Orchard Brae instead of Roseburn

Plans for another extension of Edinburgh’s tram line, linking Granton to Dalkeith through the city centre, are set to be considered by the council early next year.

And instead of taking over the Roseburn cycle path as part of the tram route, council leaders signalled they were now interested in running the trams via Orchard Brae.

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The proposed north-south extension is central to plans for a “mass rapid transit corridor” to reduce congestion and streamline public transport across south-east Scotland to meet the needs of the region’s growing population. If approved it would double the length of the existing line, including the new section through Leith which is due to open in the spring. And the council said it will make the case for it to be considered as a piece of national infrastructure, meaning the Scottish Government would meet the cost.

Under the latest expansion plans, trams could go from Granton to Dalkeith via Orchard Brae. Picture: Andy OBrien

As work on the Newhaven line nears completion, city councillors will be presented with a new public transport action plan setting out options for a line from Granton to the city centre and then towards the Royal Infirmary and Edinburgh BioQuarter. Potential future tram routes beyond this, included in a map published by the council, show extensions to link up with Sherrifhall park and ride, Newcraighall and Shawfair train stations and as far as Dalkeith. However, expansion of the network beyond the city’s boundary is likely to be many years off, with current estimations indicating the Granton to BioQuarter line would not be open until at least 2032. This would likely be completed by one contractor in two phases – Granton to city centre and city centre to BioQuarter – although it is not yet known which would come first.

In Edinburgh’s original tram plan, before the project was scaled-back amid huge delays and soaring construction costs, the second phase was intended to deliver a new track from from the city centre to Granton via Roseburn, Ravelston and Craigleith.

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However, transport chiefs are now eyeing-up a “preferred” alternative route through Orchard Brae and Crewe Toll, turning right at the end of Princes Street instead of continuing to Haymarket, as this would serve more residential areas. But it would pose serious challenges of its own for engineers as it’s unlikely tracks could be laid over The Dean Bridge.

Transport convener Scott Arthur said: "No decision has been made yet, but people do see the cycle route as being the default, whereas councillors will have to make more of a decision on that. Roseburn is attractive because it’s a former railway line, but there are accessibility issues there, whereas this newer route goes right through residential areas and may connect better for people. Orchard Brae would be more complex but could bring more benefits.

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“We’ll listen to residents on which route we should pick but we’re committed to delivering the biggest ever expansion of public transport in Edinburgh. We’re making the case to the Scottish Government for this being a piece of national infrastructure. And that means they start to think about funding it and that’s really important.”

No estimate has been given for the cost of the proposed expansion. Construction of the initial tram line was marred by controversies after the total price reached £776m – more than double the original estimate of £375m. A public inquiry sparked by the failures, which is still to release its findings eight years after it was first announced, has also gained notoriety for its £13m price tag – the same as the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War.