Two weeks ago councillors voted to save money on the beleaguered project and run trams between the airport and Haymarket, to the west of the city – representing 60% of the original plan. But the Scottish government said it would withdraw funding if the scheme did not reach the city centre. This forced a rethink and last week the council voted to take the tram to St Andrew Square in the city centre. Projected cost will be £742m.
This is still short of the original route that was to have reached Newhaven in the north of the city at a cost of £545m. The project has been hit by disputes between the council and the Bilfinger Berger-led consortium that is building the line.
City of Edinburgh council leader Jenny Dawe said: "Continuing with the tram route to St Andrew Square was the only sensible option for Edinburgh. I look forward to seeing a new work programme which enables our tramline to be built and operational as quickly as possible. I am delighted that we have managed to deliver additional funds for the businesses affected.”
This decision now authorises council chief executive Sue Bruce to negotiate the settlement agreement with the contractors with the aim of delivering the tram route to the city centre as the first phase of the tram line.
The Unite trade union, representing employees of Lothian Buses, which may now have to be sold to raise funds for the tram project, criticised the council’s decision. Regional secretary Pat Rafferty said: "This is a total catastrophe for Lothian Buses, its workforce and the public. This world class public service will now be saddled with the debt of the trams fiasco leaving it to the mercy of the market.
"This shambolic council has unforgivably ignored the public and workers affected, burdening the city with eye-watering levels of debt that will cast a dark shadow over its public services."