THE first tram in 67 years has run down Leith Walk in Edinburgh as the Trams to Newhaven project nears completion.

On Monday night, a tram with no passengers aboard began the first stage of testing at Picardy Place. 

It was the first time a tram had run down Leith Walk since November 1956. A busker entertained the crowds on the street as locals gathered along the new route to watch the first test.

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.

Trams travelling along small sections of the route will continue through the week, taking place during the night to minimise traffic disruption.

People are being encouraged to take care and be aware of the presence of trams on the route over the coming weeks.

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Councillor Scott Arthur, transport and environment convener, described the run as a “huge milestone” for the project.

He added: “We’re fast approaching the start of passenger services this spring, and [the fact] 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.”

The capital’s current tram line officially opened on May 31, 2014, with the 8.4 mile route running between York Place in the city centre and Edinburgh Airport.

The eight stops extension will allow passengers to travel to Leith and Newhaven and the project remains on schedule for completion by spring 2023, within the £207.3m budget, with all major construction now complete.

Construction began in November 2019 and Edinburgh Council faced criticism for disruption caused by the line construction.

Katrina Faccenda, Labour councillor for the area, said the work had become “intolerable” for Leith residents and businesses in November 2022.

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Lea Harrison, managing director of Edinburgh Trams, said the latest milestone will enable the company “to step up our preparations for the launch of passenger services to Newhaven”.

Once the first stage is completed, the frequency and speed of tram testing will increase, and trams will start running to a timetable on a date yet to be confirmed. The Council recently announced that the service should be operational by June 21.

Drivers on the route have carried out significant training in the lead-up to testing, including on a state-of-the-art simulator.

There will be some bus diversions around Leith Walk in place overnight during the week commencing March 13 to allow for the testing.

The latest information on diversions is available on the Lothian Buses website.