First stage of testing begins for Trams to Newhaven project

First stage of testing begins for Trams to Newhaven project

The test tram at the junction of Queen Charlotte Street / Constitution Street

History was made on Monday night when the first tram in over 65 years ran down Leith Walk, as the Trams to Newhaven project nears completion.

Ahead of the route opening for service in spring 2023, a period of testing and commissioning is required to ensure the newly constructed line, software and signals work effectively and safely.

On Monday, the first stage of testing began, which involves trams travelling at walking pace along small sections of the route, starting at Picardy Place. This will continue through the week, taking place during the night to minimise traffic disruption.

Once the first stage is completed, the frequency and speed of tram testing will increase, and trams will start running to a timetable. Drivers on the route have carried out significant training in the lead-up to testing, including on a state-of-the-art simulator. People are still being encouraged to take care and be aware of the presence of trams on the route for the first time over the coming weeks.

Councillor Scott Arthur, transport and environment convener, said: “This is a huge milestone for Trams to Newhaven as we see the first trams on Leith Walk in my lifetime. We’re fast approaching the start of passenger services this spring, and that the project is set to be delivered on time and within budget, despite the challenges of recent years, is testament to the hard work of all those involved.

“Bringing the tram to Newhaven will be transformative for the area, and the wider city. As well as boosting the economy and providing sustainable, high-capacity public transport to this densely populated part of Edinburgh, the project has significantly improved the entire route, with new cycle links, spaces to relax and spend time and newly planted trees and shrubs.

First stage of testing begins for Trams to Newhaven project

The test tram on Elm Row

“As we enter the final phase of the project, testing and commissioning will make sure the line and infrastructure works safely and efficiently, while also confirming service capacity. Of course, this is the first time there will be trams on Leith Walk and in Leith in recent years so I would urge people to take extra care when in the area.”

Lea Harrison, managing director of Edinburgh Trams, said: “To see one of our trams running along Leith Walk was a proud moment for us, and this latest milestone in the project will enable us to step up our own preparations for the launch of passenger services to Newhaven.

“This includes real-world driver training on the new section of line following an intense period of familiarisation involving our state-of-the-art tram simulator.”

The Trams to Newhaven project remains on schedule for completion by spring 2023 and within the £207.3 million budget, with all major construction now complete.

Due to industry wide challenges with the availability of materials and skilled labour, impacted by Brexit and the war in Ukraine along with significant demand for labour in the UK and overseas, there are small pockets of public realm works that will now be completed over the coming months. A specific date for when the route will be open for passengers will be announced in due course.

Maria Ortega, Sacyr Farrans Neopul (SFN), project director on Trams to Newhaven, said: “As contractors on the Trams to Newhaven project, the Sacyr Farrans Neopul JV team are extremely proud to be achieving this huge milestone. We have been working successfully alongside our partners, supply chain and client for over four years to deliver this significant project in Edinburgh.

First stage of testing begins for Trams to Newhaven project

The test tram on Leith Walk, near Stead's Place

“Despite the challenges of unprecedented times experienced throughout the life cycle of the project, seeing the first tram travelling down the newly completed line as part of the testing and commissioning process will be a memorable moment.

“The testing and commissioning phase will allow the new systems and infrastructure to be integrated into the existing tram network.

“As we reach the final stages of delivering this key piece of infrastructure to the people of the city, we appreciate the public’s continued support during this final technical phase of the project.”

Steven Jackson, director, Turner & Townsend, added: “As the City of Edinburgh Council’s delivery partner for the Trams to Newhaven project, we’re delighted to have reached this significant milestone with the commencement of the testing and commissioning period, which will see trams travelling the full route.

“Following approval of the project in March 2019, we have worked closely with all members of the project team and third parties through an early contractor involvement period, significant utility diversions, and the install of new infrastructure and systems.

“The complexity of this ambitious project has required the team to tackle and overcome many challenges along the way, but collaboration has been key. We look forward to successfully delivering this major transport project in line with the programme set out in the final business case; and the start of the passenger services this Spring.”

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