Edinburgh: New tram project dealt funding blow

Edinburgh’s new tram project has been dealt a blow just months after its launch, after the Scottish Government said it could ‘not afford’ to fund the development of a business case.

Edinburgh Council’s Lib Dems have raised concerns it leaves a “gaping £44 million black hole” in plans to build a north-south line – and are calling for a public consultation agreed by councillors to be paused.

Kevin Lang, Lib Dem leader in the City Chambers, said it would be wrong to proceed while it was “unclear who or how the next stage of the project would be financed”, told Midlothian Review.

Transport convener Scott Arthur said the council was exploring “all options” for funding and have had “constructive discussions” with Ministers at Holyrood.

He said in the face of the climate emergency investing more in mass rapid transit in the capital city would be “a massive step in the right direction” and did not support the calls to halt the public engagement process.

In a letter seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, transport secretary Fiona Hyslop said financial support from the Scottish Government for a business case “is not affordable in the current fiscal climate, nor in line with the recent recommendations of the Tram Enquiry”.

She said: “It may be that alternative public/private delivery models need to be explored by CEC.”

The council’s transport committee agreed in February to proceed with a 12-week consultation on a new tram line connecting Granton and the Royal Infirmary via the city centre, which it’s estimated would cost £2 billion and take 11 years to build.

A campaign quickly emerged to protect the Roseburn Path, an old railway line turned active travel corridor which forms part of officials ‘preferred’ northern route. But councillors agreed this option should be presented ‘objectively’ alongside the alternative – which would go across Dean Bridge and through Orchard Brae – when plans are put to the public later this year.

The costs associated with pre-construction work, such as the development of a business case to be approved by the council, were estimated at around £44m.

“The council has no funding allocated at present for such costs,” a report said.

It was “expected that Scottish Government/Transport Scotland would allocate funding as the project moves forward” but this was “clearly uncertain given current Scottish Government financial constraints”.

The report said there had been “positive discussions with the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland on support to develop an Outline Business Case and Final Business Case in the future”.

(Pic – Anne Gordon/Dreamstime)


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