EDINBURGH voters have been urged to choose the Lib-Dems in the forthcoming local elections – because they will do more tram works.
The party has promised the city’s electorate that if they win power on May 3, they will extend the £1bn scheme, despite the chronic cost overruns, traffic problems and technical difficulties that have plagued the project.
In their manifesto, the Liberal Democrats say they would extend the line, which is currently due to terminate in Princes Street, in two directions.
One branch would go to Leith and another to the city’s main hospital on the south-eastern outskirts.
The city is currently run by a coalition of the Lib-Dems and SNP and council leader Jenny Dawe – a Liberal Democrat – believes voters will one day appreciate a complete tram system.
“The people of Leith Walk have had to put up with an enormous amount already because of the tram, and we believe there is still a strong business case for taking the tram down there,” she said.
“But perhaps fund it in a different way. There could be business interest in doing that.
“We think it’s worth doing, and there was a strong argument for it originally.”
Cllr Dawes said the second extension – to an area known as Little France – was also justified.
“That’s now been given a further boost because it’s become an enterprise area, so there’s even more of a reason,” she said.
But rival parties have hit out at the election pledge.
Andrew Burns, leader of Labour in Edinburgh, said it was “entirely inappropriate” to make more plans regarding the network before the original work was complete.
“The people of Edinburgh will find this insulting,” he said.
“The local authority has had its reputation dragged through the mud and needs to get the current line up and running before we look at extensions.”
Jeremy Balfour, leader of the city’s Conservatives, said that before any new tram plans went ahead the council would have to deal with their £1.5bn debt.
He added said: “In principal it would be good to get the tram to Ocean Terminal but it’s very difficult to see where the money would come from.
“This [current project] will already leave us with massive borrowing.
“The debt has to be dealt with before we look at any more massive infrastructure projects.”
Cllr Dawes compared the Edinburgh trams project with Dublin’s system, saying the Irish had encountered may of the same problems at their Scottish counterparts.
The light rail network cost three times its initial £205m budget but is now considered a success and has been extended with private cash.
Cllr Dawe continued: “I think what will happen in Edinburgh will be analogous to Dublin where they had many of the same difficulties in delivering their tram.
“It’s now businesses in Dublin which are paying to a large extent for extensions of the line.
“Dublin’s first line ended at a shopping centre, which boosted business so much that other businesses wanted a line near them and we have had approaches from businesses who are interested here.”
Cllr Dawe said she had a “benign belief that we will love the tram”.
She added: “It’s been a horrendous route to take to get here, but once it’s in place and working commercially well, which it will fairly quickly, people will like it.
“Edinburgh should have a tram network, not just a tram line.”
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