The search for a contractor to extend Edinburgh’s tram system to Newhaven is to commence after the Outline Business Case (OBC) for the proposal was approved yesterday by the local authority.

Published by the City of Edinburgh Council last month, the OBC set out the findings and recommendations resulting from a 20-month programme of very detailed work assessing the benefits, impact and likely timescales and cost of completing the remaining 4.6km of tramline 1A.

The document has been closely scrutinised by members of all political groups on the council over recent weeks and gained approval from the transport and environment committee earlier this month.

A comprehensive tendering process will now get underway to secure a potential contractor partner for the project.

However, councillors will not make a final decision on taking the tram to Newhaven until autumn 2018.

The intervening period – or Stage 2 in the process – will enable the project team to:

  • Allow affordability to be tested based on tender prices
  • Provide a further 12 months of evidence of tram patronage build up; and
  • Allow the project to consider any lessons learned from the Edinburgh Tram Inquiry currently underway

Council leader Adam McVey said: “Given the rate of growth forecast for Edinburgh over the coming years, we simply cannot stand still. And yet we can’t proceed with work to take trams down to Newhaven unless we’re 100% certain we’ve rigorously scrutinised the business case and taken on board crucial lessons from the first phase.

“Having pored over the Outline Business Case in microscopic detail these past few weeks, including obtaining independent advice on it, I’m confident our project team – which retains key personnel from the team who got the first phase back on track – is now well placed to move on to the next stage and start the procurement process for a contractor.

“We will only make our final decision next autumn once the tendering process has completed and once we’ve consulted an independent assessor on the viability of the proposed construction contracts. We’ll also of course consider any lessons learned from Lord Hardie’s ongoing tram inquiry as we move forward.”

Transport convener Councillor Lesley Macinnes said: “For the people of Leith, having a direct tram link to the city centre and other key employment and travel hubs would be hugely beneficial. That said, we are acutely aware of how challenging the construction period would be, which is why we’re developing a compensation scheme to help those who would be most affected.

“We’ll take the time while the tender process is ongoing to build and maintain useful two-way relationships with local residents and businesses so we can understand and ideally pre-empt issues which might arise.

“Stage 2 will also enable us to work with all our partners and stakeholders, including bus companies, the emergency services, residents, businesses and elected members, to properly test and model traffic management plans for the works.

“Over the next 12 months we will be able to develop an even fuller picture of the project, building further detail into the business case and drawing on another year of patronage, which will allow us to make a fully informed final decision next autumn.”

Key points included in OBC:

Rapid population and economic growth

  • Over the next decade, Edinburgh and surrounding area expected to be home to faster growing population than anywhere else in Scotland. National Records of Scotland projections published in 2016 suggest city should be planning for an additional 47,000 people by 2024 and additional 102,000 by 2039 (20% increase)
  • Number of households forecast to increase by over 38,000 (16%) by 2032. A quarter (25%) of this growth is forecast to occur in Leith Docks and Western Harbour area
  • Employment levels in Edinburgh are projected to grow by 7.6% between 2013 and 2022

Costs & benefits

  • Capital Cost estimated at £165.2m, including risk and inflation
  • Patronage forecast to almost double in opening year to 14m, reflecting high population densities along the route
  • For every £1 spent the economic return to the city is £1.64
  • OBC includes wider economic benefits, including social inclusion, and completing the line will provide access to jobs and support business and opportunities in the area

Construction work to take three years

  • Estimated three-year construction period, including 18 months on Leith Walk, followed by approx four months of testing and commissioning on new line.
  • Significant proportion of major utility works have already been carried out – remainder carried out in conjunction with main infrastructure works, meaning no ‘double dig’

Carefully planned traffic management

  • Diversions, road closures, access and crossing points thoroughly planned and modelled
  • All key stakeholders, including residents, businesses, emergency services and Lothian Buses will be consulted on the traffic proposals set out in the OBC

Support for businesses

  • Customer and service access to local businesses maintained at all times
  • Compensation and support scheme for affected businesses along the route put in place
  • Logistic centres and dedicated crossing points provided at 150-200m centres on Leith Walk
  • Logistics officers deployed throughout the day to help businesses with deliveries

Lessons learned

  • OBC recommends industry-standard contract with rigorous project governance
  • Traffic management would give contractor expanded sites and provide flexibility if problems encountered
  • Project would benefit from industry networking with other cities (Manchester, Birmingham, Dublin) to ensure best practice
  • Consultation with the market and incorporating input from Tram Inquiry.

Source: Scottish Construction Now!

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