March 2021: Edinburgh: Walking the Newhaven Tram Extension

Horse-drawn, cable-hauled, and later electric trams operated on the streets of Edinburgh during the period 1871 to 1956. The final vehicles of that era were in the style of their day: electrically driven, rigid double-deckers, bearing the classic ‘madder & white’ livery of the former Edinburgh Corporation. I can just recall seeing a Glasgow tram on a pre-school age visit to that city in 1962, but Edinburgh’s classic tramcars were before my time.

Trams made a limited return to Edinburgh in 2014, following a hugely troubled construction project that has left a bad taste in the mouths of many city residents to this day. Despite its difficult genesis, however, the new line linking Edinburgh Airport to the city centre has been a great success operationally. The new trams are sleek, modern, single-deck, multi-articulated vehicles supplied by Spanish company CAF. With increasing concern about climate change leading to political commitments for the decarbonisation of transport, the authorities once again have an appetite for further expansion of the environmentally friendly trams.

The new section of line will run from the current city-centre terminus at York Place towards Leith, before turning westwards to Newhaven. One of the existing 16 stops (York Place) will close, while eight new stops will be added, giving a total of 23. No new trams are required, as the original order was placed before the York Place to Newhaven section was descoped from Phase 1.

My walk took place on a Sunday afternoon, which is why all the work sites are deserted. Scottish construction sites were allowed to remain open during our period of winter lockdown.