Trams to Leith 'in four years' 15 | 10 | 2010

    THE ILL-FATED Edinburgh tram line is now expected to be extended beyond St Andrew Square to the end of Leith Walk within four years, according to city council chiefs. And, amazingly, transport leader Gordon Mackenzie believes the second stretch of the line could be laid without needing extra money.

    "Our commitment is to build the full line 1a but the timing depends on finances," Cllr Mackenzie said. "In the first stage, I would like to see it go beyond St Andrew Square as soon as possible. Building to St Andrew Square, if it is the best way of taking the project forward, I am comfortable with. It is an option we are looking at but our contract with the consortium still says build it to Newhaven.

    "My understanding is that around 70% of what is required to deliver the tram to Newhaven is there. The bits missing is mainly the track-laying. We can't give a projection on what the full cost will be at this stage. But I certainly believe that there is potential to deliver the tram beyond St Andrew Square in the short term."

    When questioned about what he meant by "short term", he said: "The next three-four years."

    So far the custodians of Edinburgh's coffers have splashed out around £381 million on the project, with 95% of utility diversions said to be completed. The negative though is that only just over half of the tram vehicle construction work and just one quarter of the total tram infrastructure work has been completed.

    The official green light for the opening of the initial tram route, between Edinburgh Airport and St Andrew Square remains, optimistically, 2012.

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    Jim McGill

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