Edinburgh trams: Looking back at the tram works project that transformed Edinburgh

Construction work brought much of Edinburgh to a standstill

With trams now running between Newhaven and Edinburgh Airport, we’ve taken a look back at the construction project that delivered the 11.5 mile transport link and took 10 years of roadworks and diversions in total.

Construction of the first phase, linking Edinburgh Airport with Newhaven, began in June 2008, but encountered substantial delays and cost overruns. The line opened in May 2014, but only between the airport and York Place. In March 2019, the council approved the case for extending the line to Newhaven. Work on the extension started in November, and was completed on schedule in June 2023, despite being delayed for three months by the coronavirus pandemic.

The cost of the scheme in 2003 was estimated at £498 million. By 2008 the cost of the project was estimated at £521m, with the line now stopping at York Place instead of continuing to Leith. By June 2010, the project's cost had risen to £600m. Costs rose to an estimated £770m by June the following year, leaving the council with a shortfall of more than £200m. With extra interest payments factored in, the cost of the line was expected to exceed £1 billion by the time the first phase was delivered, although the controversial tram inquiry that followed, looking into the probelms encountered in the first phase put that figure at £835.7m.

In 2017, the £144.7m Edinburgh Trams extension to Newhaven was approved by the council, which was delivered last summer.