BUSINESS and transport leaders have urged Edinburgh councillors to vote to extend the city's tram network.

Campaigners want to see the route stretched out to Leith and Newhaven as a springboard for a wider light rail network for the city.

City councillors will vote on the controversial plans tomorrow [Thu], potentially paving the way to major disruption for capital residents less than two years after the existing line opened.

The council’s timetable for completing the £162 million extension to Leith Walk does not envisage the extra section of line being finished until 2021.

It is understood to have split the council's Labour-SNP coalition, with Labours leaders keen to press ahead but SNp leaders unconvinced by the financial case.

However, the Scottish Council for Development and industry (SCDI) and Transform Scotland, which campaigns for sustainable transport, urged councillors to back the initiative.

Gareth Williams, Director of Policy at Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI), said: "As national organisations, Transform Scotland and SCDI recognise that what happens in Edinburgh is key to Scotland's success as a low carbon, knowledge economy. The city has the strongest economy of any city in the UK outside London and with population growth forecasts the joint fastest in Scotland, it is important that city continues to invest in its transport infrastructure."

Paul Tetlaw, spokesman for Transform Scotland, added: "Now is the time to take the next step towards a comprehensive network by extending the line to Newhaven and so joining up development in Leith and Newhaven with the developments at the St James Quarter, Edinburgh Park and Edinburgh Airport. This will send positive signals that Edinburgh is following the worldwide trend of developing sustainable transport infrastructure and intends to keep pace with its competitor cities across the Continent."

The existing tram line, which runs between Edinburgh Airport and York Place in the city centre, opened to passengers in May 2014, six years after work began.

An inquiry into the project, which was delivered late, over-budget and truncated, has since been launched.

It is claimed the disruption caused by the trams project cost Edinburgh businesses hundreds of thousands of pounds and forced some to close.