Tram passenger numbers double since new line launch

Friday June 23rd 2023

Edinburgh Tram St Andrews Square

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Donald Turvill

Passenger numbers have doubled on Edinburgh’s trams since the long-awaited extension through Leith opened, the city’s council leader has revealed.

Councillor Cammy Day said patronage “remains high” and hailed the success of the first few weeks of the new line being operational.

Continued use by residents and visitors will provide funds to pay back money loaned for the construction and allow the council to begin preparations for the next phase, Cllr Day added.

Four and a half kilometres of track and eight more stops have been added to the network.

Passengers boarded the first service to Newhaven after the council leader cut the ribbon at Picardy Place on June 6.

But some services have been delayed by drivers leaving vehicles left parked on the tracks – and a councillor pointed out the project “isn’t quite complete” as work continues to finish public realm improvements along the route, including at Elm Row.

However speaking at a full council meeting yesterday Cllr Day said it was “important to remember the successes” rather than focus on negatives.

“In the last few weeks passenger numbers have doubled and numbers remain high,” he said.

“I want to again say a huge thank you to the people of Leith, the communities, businesses who have worked with us along this challenging time, particularly through some challenging years during Covid.

“It will now be over to Councillor Arthur and the transport team to progress the next phase.”

Responding to the remarks, Edinburgh Council’s Conservative group leader Iain Whyte said it was “a project which isn’t quite complete because there’s lots of work still ongoing”.

He added the extension, originally meant to be part of the first phase which opened in 2014, had cost “£66m a mile when most tram schemes were costing 40 odd million pounds a mile”.

Cllr Whyte also highlighted the project’s £207m price tag was “considerably more” than the £165m included in the contract when it was put out to tender in 2017.

“Given all of that, and no contingency has been saved, how are we going to pay back the loan?” he asked.

Councillor Day responded: “I understand the final settlement has not been reached yet and that will of course be reported to committee in due course.

“I think it’s more important to remember the successes of this tram; the first phase of the tram was a huge success with numbers exceeding the expectations and as I reported in my leader’s report the numbers in the first few weeks have doubled and are remaining high.

“That patronage is what will pay back the loan for the tram extension and I’m hopeful that as we look to extend into Granton and the south of the city that we’ll have the support of the Scottish Government to extend that and find the resources to support the next extension of Edinburgh Trams.”

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