Edinburgh trams: Trams to Newhaven line testing begins as tram runs on Leith Walk for first time in years
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The first tram successfully travelled from Picardy Place to Newhaven on Monday night, March 13. Departing shortly after 8pm, the ‘ghost tram’ travelled at a pedestrian pace, with no passengers onboard, as engineers carried out safety checks. Phase one of testing, that continues until March 17, sees the tram operated at a ‘walking pace’ to test the integrity of the line, with phase two commencing next week to ensure new signals operate effectively and safely. In the coming weeks, test speeds will increase to 20mph, followed by performance and timetable tests and driver training ahead of carrying passengers in spring.
Hannah Ross, senior responsible officer for the project, described the moment as ‘an incredible feeling.’ She said: “Obviously building a tram has meant a huge amount of disruption for people in Leith, so to finally be able to show them the output of all of those efforts is a really amazing feeling so I feel very proud and privileged to be here.”
Last night saw the first tram to travel down Leith Walk since November 1956. Crowds gathered along the new route to watch the inaugural test run that has been three years in the making and local residents could be seen watching and cheering from their windows. A busker entertained the crowds on Leith Walk, singing: ‘I hear that tram a’coming, We’ve been waiting so long’.
Speaking at the event, council leader, Cammy Day, said: “It’s a momentous night to see the tram coming down Leith Walk to Newhaven for the first time in many many years. It’s probably the largest infrastructure project we have done in the city for a long time and we apologise for the disruption. But as you can see from the amount of people in the streets tonight, taking pictures from their windows and coming out of pubs and applauding shows us that there is a real jubilation that the trams are finished.”
Transport convener, Scott Arthur, who also attended the trial run said: “After the first tram project in Edinburgh – which did not go as smoothly as we wanted, this one has gone really well and it is running on time and on budget.”
He added: “Over the next few weeks people will start to see the tram running more frequently and once we are sure all the systems are working properly and safely then it will be opened up to the public, hopefully by June.”
Edinburgh Council has been criticised for the long-running disruption caused by the tram works on Leith Walk. Labour councillor for the area, Katrina Faccenda, said the work had become “intolerable” for Leith residents and local businesses.
The new Trams to Newhaven line will connect Leith and Newhaven to the current end of the tram line at York Place. Construction began on the £207 million project in November 2019, which is projected to finish on time, despite a 13-week delay caused by the first Covid-19 lockdown. The Council recently announced that the service should be operational by June 21.