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The Future of Edinburgh’s Trams


They are the subject for much debate here in Edinburgh but with the Tram Inquiry currently ongoing, what does the future hold for Edinburgh’s infamous trams?

Anyone who has spent time in Edinburgh over the past 10 years will be familiar with the trams, even if they were here before they were up and running. Starting work in 2007, with an initial completion date of 2011, it wasn’t until 2014 when the first tram actually made it’s way across the city, although not as far across the city as was first planned.

When the decision was first made for the trams to go ahead (way back in 2003), the plans were originally for the tram line to connect Edinburgh Airport with Leith’s Ocean Terminal. With the tram works starting in Leith and with Leith Walk being in a state of disrepair for many years, it was a decision that was presented as a “no pain, no gain” scenario. Promise of a new lease of life, a whole new opening to trade & tourism in Edinburgh, is what kept people pushing through the endless digging, drilling and disruption.

Unfortunately the relentless works did spell the end for many local businesses in Leith who could not go on without their usual trade of those people who now avoided the area due to the difficulties they faced getting there. Dug up roads and empty shops became the norm on Leith Walk for an uncomfortable amount of time. But again, the “no pain, no gain” scenario was made to make seem like the sacrifices of the minority would benefit the majority.

Until 2009 when the plans to bring the trams down Leith were scrapped.

Outrage ensued with them now only going as far as York Place. All the pain with no gain, as well as many businesses facing difficulty and even failure…yet no trams for Leith. With the rising costs and misjudged budget to blame, as well as being the source of the ongoing inquiry, with a massive overspend of double the planned budget, which with the added interest takes the final figure close to £1billion.

Despite all this and the ongoing inquiry, there is now talks for the tram line to be extended from where they end at York Place, down Leith Walk to Newhaven.

It begs the question…why?

With Leith already being well connected with a fantastic bus service, you’d be forgiven for wondering why a tram line would also be necessary. The argument is that Edinburgh is a city growing at a uncomparable rate and as such, an upgrade in it’s transport and commuting connections is necessary. However this is of little comfort for those who live and work within the area and will be subject to yet more disruption when the 18-month long plans to prepare Leith Walk ensue.

At present the plans to proceed with extending the trams is on hold to allow the on-going inquiry to conclude but we here at Cameron Stephen & Co. will be watching with interest what (and when) the plans may bring to Leith.

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