Trams: Scottish Government says no more money

As trams roll, the  city has been warned it must prepare for contingencies. Picture: Ian Georgeson
As trams roll, the city has been warned it must prepare for contingencies. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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TRANSPORT Minister Keith Brown has ruled out any Scottish Government funding to extend Edinburgh’s trams.

Council chiefs have signalled they will look seriously at taking trams down Leith Walk, where much of the preparatory work was carried out before the decision to cut the route short.

But Mr Brown today made clear the government’s “not a penny more” pledge still stood.

He said it had “no intention” of funding any future tram extensions.

The comments came as the minister was quizzed by the Scottish Parliament’s transport committee.

Edinburgh Pentlands SNP MSP Gordon MacDonald pointed out the legislation passed in 2006 required any work to start within 15 years and asked Mr Brown his views on the possibility of the tram line being extended to Leith within that timeframe.

Mr Brown said: “We have made clear we funded the line that’s there just now to the tune of £500m, not a penny more, and we have stuck to that. We have no intention of being involved in further lines for trams. The council, of course, can take that forward if they want to do that themselves.

“It’s not something the Scottish Government would want to take forward.”

Mr MacDonald asked if that meant any extension would be dependent on Edinburgh taxpayers picking up the tab.

Mr Brown said: “Councils have different ways in which they can fund these things. All I’m saying is from the government’s point of view we have no plans to make any contribution. I have not had any proposal from the city council to look at this.

“The government doesn’t have any intention of putting more resources into any further tram phases.”

The news comes as it was revealed that developers in Leith are still being forced to make contributions to the tram project as the city council eyes a long-term plan to take the line there by 2020.

Hotel, retail and housing firms planning to build along the route must contribute to the new transport network in return for the benefits it will bring them.

City coffers have been swelled to the tune of £7.6 million by developers eager to build along the line.

The Evening News understands a £1.5m slice of that fund is linked to construction between the tram’s final stop in York Place and its once-intended destination of Newhaven.

Three developers on Leith Walk – believed to be Premier Inn Hotels, Freemantle Developments and London/Cornwall Property Partners – have handed over £340,000 within the last two months.

It comes just weeks after the News revealed the city council had reignited plans to take the trams as far as Leith by ensuring improvements for Leith Walk are “future-proofed”.

We told how councillors were set to spend £1m on road, footway and cycle works to take account of the possibility the tram line will be extended.

Trade leaders in Leith accused the city council of having a “real cheek” to ask for continued contributions and suggested the trams would never reach the area.

Alex Wilson, chairman of Leith Business Association, said: “I think the city council have a real cheek to continue asking for money from developers for a tram line that is never going to happen in the near future.

“I disagree with pre-loading businesses with a premium for a tram line which after seven years is still pie in the sky.

“The Scottish Government are not going to give any more money, and the city council has no collateral to borrow, so I fail to see how they could ever fund it. The last thing Leith businesses want is to have the Walk ripped up again for a tram line.”

Developers along the scrapped Roseburn and Granton routes are, however, being returned half of their stake – around £500,000.

And they will no longer be asked for cash contributions due to there being “little or no prospect of this section of the route being delivered in the near future”.

Miller Homes is the first in line to receive a refund, of £221,565, after initially handing over £443,131 for homes it built in Granton – with another quarter going to pay for apprenticeships and the rest retained by the council for other transport projects.

Plans for the tram network will be drawn up after the project goes live in May, with a report due to be prepared for consideration by councillors later this year.

City planning convener Ian Perry said: “Any money collected sits in a bank account and is not spent by the city council.

“This money will only be spent to build the tram line. 2020 is the year that the Scottish Government has reserved the line to Newhaven until so until then we will collect developer contributions.”