Edinburgh tram extension budget rises to over £207 million

(Credit: Edinburgh Council)

The cost of an extension to the Edinburgh tram lines has risen by 25% to £207.3 million.

The proposed 2.8 mile extension to Edinburgh’s trams would go from the city centre to Newhaven. The initial estimation was for a total cost of £165 million.

After a “thorough tendering process” the operation has been allocated a budget of £196 million and with a “significant additional risk allocation” of 6%. The total budget eclipses the previous estimation,  a 25% rise.

The council claims that the project will be funded by future tram fare revenues, with the projected number of passengers for the first year being 16 million. However, the original project to reintroduce trams to Edinburgh cost twice the original estimation and is subject to an ongoing inquiry.

The final business case was tested against previously completed tram projects by the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School and they found the project is “more likely than not to be delivered within budget” but also recommend an extra £50 million to cover all eventualities.

The soaring budget estimate has had a mixed reaction from the public on Twitter:

The final business case is to be reviewed by councillors in March following the opening of a special data room in the City Chambers today.

Council Leader Adam McVey said: “All Councillors will be taking the opportunity to examine in detail the FBC and associated documents in detail so that we can collectively make as informed a decision as possible come 14 March. If Council moves ahead with this project, we’ll be working hard to make sure we deliver this project on time, on budget.”

Depute Council Leader Cammy Day said: “A tram to Newhaven would not only provide a direct link for the people of Newhaven and Leith to the city centre and out to the airport, but would connect residents and visitors to major employment and travel hubs along the route.

Construction is planned using a “one-dig” approach closing each site only once and opening only when all works are complete. This approach reflects on lessons learned from the previous tram project.”

 

200 Cyclists killed or injured by Edinburgh trams from 2009-2016

Over 200 cyclists have been injured by city trams in Edinburgh since May 2009, with at least one incident resulting in death.

EN4 News spoke to the author of the report, Edinburgh University’s Professor Chris Oliver. He said:

“The Tram System was poorly designed. No consideration of the needs of cyclists. The infrastructure should segregate cyclists away from trams.”

As a former surgeon, Professor Oliver has seen first-hand what the damage these trams can do. The study highlights that ‘the risks [of cyclists] are further increased by other factors such as on-street parked cars, the absence of dedicated cycling infrastructure and heavy traffic’.

Edinburgh Trams | Image Credit: STV

It also found that ‘almost two-thirds of respondents in this study reported that the incident occurred while commuting.’ This primarily occurs when cyclists feel pressured by motorists to go onto the tramlines.

So what can be done to ensure their safety?

Oliver believes segregated infrastructure is key in bringing about change and security to cyclists. He also told EN4 News that he agrees with Spokes’ tramline safety measures, which is a four phase plan to make tramlines safer for cyclists.

The study of ‘Tram System Related Cycling Injuries’ was conducted in light of the death of 23 years old Malaysian medical student, Zhi Min Soh.

Vote to be held on Tram extension

Edinburgh councillors will vote tomorrow (Thursday) on whether to extend Edinburgh’s current tram network to Leith and Newhaven.

Despite  work on the original tramlines concluding only two years ago, Labour are believed to be strongly in favour of the controversial plans which would cost a further £162 million and have an estimated completion date in 2021.

The plans also have the backing of Scottish business and transport leaders with the Scottish Council for Development and Industry and Transform Scotland both releasing statements in favour of the work.

A spokesman for Transform Scotland said:

“Now is the time to take the next step towards a comprehensive network by extending the line to Newhaven and so joining up development in Leith and Newhaven with the developments at the St James Quarter, Edinburgh Park and Edinburgh Airport. This will send positive signals that Edinburgh is following the worldwide trend of developing sustainable transport infrastructure and intends to keep pace with its competitor cities across the Continent.”

The SNP are believed to be strongly against the extension plans which would cause further disruption to local businesses in the capital.

The difference in stance between the two parties is threatening to jeopardise the current coalition with 18 months still left before the next council elections.

The trams have come under extreme scrutiny following failures of the initial project which lasted for six years and came in well over budget, leading to an inquiry being launched.trams

Photo courtesy of Craig Murphy /Flickr

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