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Trams shocker: Residents face window washing ban over electrocution fears

RESIDENTS on the tram route will have to ask for permission to clean their windows because of the health and safety hazard of overheard power cables, it emerged today.

Transport bosses will also have to give the go-ahead for work including painting shop fronts or erecting scaffolding.

The rules are likely to affect streets such as Constitution Street and Shandwick Place where the power cables are expected to be attached to buildings rather than poles in the middle of the road.

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Alastair Richards, managing director of Edinburgh Trams, said: "We'll make sure that well ahead of any overhead wires going up that we go along and talk to people about what's possible and what's not possible. Most of the windows will be cleaned from inside, but should people require to gain access, we'll be able to give them the dos and don'ts.

"It will work in the same way as when somebody wants to put up scaffolding that encroaches on the road, they have to ask for permission.

"We want to make sure they're safe and can get on and do what they need to do."

It has already emerged that nine people are being taken to court by the city council for refusing to allow tram wires to be fixed to their homes.

They are understood to be among 16 residents on the tram route fighting plans to attach the power cable supports to buildings rather than to poles in the street.

Today, critics of the project were incredulous at the latest revelation. Gordon Burgess, chairman of the Leith Business Association, said the issue was another example of TIE's "back-of-a-fag-packet project management".

He said: "Constitution Street has been that width for a long time, but this has been an ill-advised project from the start and nothing surprises me about it anymore. This is another example of TIE's inability to deliver the project satisfactorily."

Edinburgh's tram project chose not to go for technology which avoids on-street cables by having the equipment carried on the tram itself.

However, the vehicles can be "retro-fitted" in future, although the job is understood to be a difficult one.

The power lines, which are due to be installed close to the opening of the project, are also expected to intrude on views of Edinburgh Castle after the decision was taken to make supporting poles on Princes Street 20ft high to avoid them coming into contact with those people travelling on open-top buses.

The cables are one of the many new features the Capital will have to get used to once the controversial project is up and running, with motorists also expected to be given tips on how to cope with the trams.

News of the power lines came as TIE showed off Edinburgh's first tram, which is currently being put through its paces at a test track in Germany.

The first of the vehicles is currently undergoing a series of tests at a special facility in Wildenrath near Dsseldorf, before it is brought to Edinburgh in April. Siemens, a partner of tram manufacturer CAF and construction firm Bilfinger Berger in the consortium charged with building the project, operates a series of test tracks on a former RAF base.

Tests include loading the tram with thousands of weights to simulate the crush of a Murrayfield match day and using machinery to recreate the gradients of the likes of Leith Walk and the turn from York Place into St Andrew Square.

Following completion of tram testing in Germany, the vehicles will be brought to Edinburgh where the stretch of route between the airport and the Gogar depot will act as a test track.

The trams will then undergo testing in the city centre at night, during which time drivers will be encouraged to learn how to navigate the city alongside them.

First of all, however, TIE intends to put the tram on public display at a yet-to-be-disclosed location.

Meanwhile, a meeting about the role played by Bilfinger Berger and the ongoing dispute which has seen on-street work grind to a halt is expected to take place in the coming weeks.

Last month reports suggested that moves were being made to kick the German firm off the project.

'Big critics will struggle not to be impressed'

THE destination may have read "Edinburgh Airport", but the view from the window of Capital's first tram vehicle was far from familiar.

Not Princes Street or Leith Walk, those lucky enough to be invited onboard for the tram's maiden voyage were instead treated to a tour of Siemens' test track deep in the German countryside.

While the Edinburgh public at large may have to wait a while before the trams are up and running, early glimpses suggest that even the most ardent critics will struggle not to be quietly impressed. So far just about the only part of the scheme running to schedule, the delivery of these vehicles from Basque firm CAF could provide TIE with a welcome PR boost ahead of more anticipated bad news about an ongoing dispute with Bilfinger Berger.

Marshall Poulton, Edinburgh City Council's head of transport, was among those onboard, and even took a turn at the controls. He said: "It's great to finally see the trams up close and I think CAF have done a tremendous job. I'm looking forward to seeing this tram running on the streets of Edinburgh."

With leather seats, state-of-the-art TFT screens and roomy carriages, Edinburgh's trams are set to offer passengers one of the most comfortable rides in Europe.

Innovative design ideas include night doors which shorten the length of the tram available to passengers at night, reducing the threat of crime and antisocial behaviour.

Onboard screens are expected to give passengers updates on events happening in the city and built-in counters will allow transport chiefs to monitor exactly how many people are on any tram at any given time.

The ride along the test track at Siemens' Wildenrath factory outside Dsseldorf was undoubtedly both comfortable and near silent. However, with construction of the project currently more akin to a rollercoaster ride, it could be a while before the trams are gliding through the city for which they were intended.

Chiefs in call for a wider city network

TRANSPORT bosses today confirmed they would eventually like to see a wider network of trams for the Capital.

Alastair Richards, managing director at Edinburgh Trams, said: "There is plenty of scope down to the south of the city, across the Bridges corridor; also scope out along the London Road corridor, out east."

In December, the Evening News revealed that plans for a tram line to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and the BioQuarter at Little France – dropped when the city's proposed congestion charge was defeated – had been revived. Planning permission for the line already exists.

In 2002, transport academic Professor Lewis Lesley outlined how a tram network could gradually be built up once the main line opened.

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