Councillors last night voted in favour of continuing with Edinburgh’s Tram project and rejected calls for a referendum on its future. However, the council will need to find an additional £200M to pay for it.
The decision to build the line as far as St Andrew Square will be confirmed at the next meeting of council on 25 August, pending further information on costs, timescales and associated risks – and ahead of the 31 August deadline agreed as part of the mediation process. The project has been beset with problems which has led to a dispute between tram company Tie and contractor Bilfinger Berger.
However, mediation talks are understood to be ongoing.
Having heard from City of Edinburgh Council chief executive Sue Bruce, and taken the opportunity to question her and other senior council officers on many aspects of her report, councillors began debating the project’s future at 6pm and talks went well into the night before a decision was made at 11.15pm.
The report, and its main recommendation to build as far as St Andrew Square, was predicated on a revised and independently verified business case for the Tram. This demonstrated that, only by taking the line into the city centre, could a surplus — of some £2M per annum — be delivered.
Council leader Jenny Dawe said she believed that a first phase to St Andrew Square was “absolutely the right decision”.
“I look forward to the further report from the chief executive later in the summer, which I believe will strengthen the case for building to St Andrew Square and beyond – whilst giving more clarity on funding,” she added.
Bruce said: “Councillors were effectively deciding on how Edinburgh is going to grow and develop in the future. A modern public transport system is a catalyst for investment, jobs, regeneration and cleaner air.
“I can fully understand why they are seeking more certainty on what is a hugely important decision for this city. I will continue to work closely with the consortium, with whom we have an ever-improving relationship, to bring back more detail on the various funding options available to the council.”
As part of the plans for moving forward, it was agreed that the programme of works to remediate and complete the Princes Street section of the route could go ahead at the beginning of September. Full plans for this programme will be released shortly.