A visualisation of the tram at Elm Row

The remains of around 200 bodies dating back hundreds of years may have to be exhumed if current plans to extend Edinburgh’s tram network down to Newhaven are given the final go-ahead.

A public consultation has been launched to help shape plans for the expansion of the tram line down Leith Walk, but under current proposals, an excavation of the burial ground at South Leith Parish Church would have to be undertaken before work can begin.

Officials said they expected to exhume bones from as far back as the 14th century to enable construction works to take place in the north of the city.

The £30,000 consultation will invite members of the public, the business community and a wide range of stakeholders to give their views on the plans before a final vote on whether to go ahead with the proposals is held in the autumn.

Starting later this month, the consultation exercise will seek feedback on a) traffic management and business support plans for the construction period and b) the outline road layout for Leith Walk and the rest of the route.

How the tram would look travelling along Constitution Street

Six weeks of engagement will provide the public, businesses and wider stakeholders with general information on the project, an opportunity to meet the team and specific details around traffic management during construction, support for business proposals and the outline road layout, ahead of final plans being drawn up.

Views will be sought on traffic management and phasing currently proposed, including proposals for the closure of Leith Walk northbound and a single lane open southbound, along with the closure of sections of Constitution Street, for approximately 18 months during construction.

The traffic management proposals have been drawn up following in-depth traffic modelling and discussions with key partners and stakeholders, including bus companies, local community groups businesses and elected members.

The plans include support for businesses who will be most affected by the works, including provision for parking and loading between worksites, an Open for Business campaign, on-street customer service staff, logistics hubs and financial support.

Views will also be sought on the plans for the permanent design of the street along the route, including a dedicated public transport-only lane on Leith Walk for tram and bus during morning and evening rush hour.

This is the first stage in a consultation process that is scheduled to continue through to the end of 2018.

City of Edinburgh Council’s transport convener, Councillor Lesley Macinnes, said: “When the Outline Business Case was approved by council in September we pledged to dedicate the following year or so (ahead of the final decision) to establishing mutually beneficial relationships with local residents and businesses who would be most affected by construction works. We’ve been working very closely with the local community and our partners ever since to model traffic management plans and look at options for supporting businesses as much as possible if the project goes ahead.

“These plans have been developed taking on board lessons learned from the first phase of tramworks and the current traffic management arrangements in place around Leith Street.

“The recent Leith survey showed that a majority of residents think trams will make a positive difference to Leith. However, there are clearly some very real concerns about disruption and congestion during construction. This consultation gives people the chance to help shape how we manage things if and when work gets under way. We hope as many people as possible will have their say, either at one of our four information events or via the Consultation Hub, which will host the consultation from 19 March.”