TRAM bosses have been forced to pay thousands to move the first of their £2 million vehicles to a storage yard in West Lothian because their Gogar depot is still not ready.
HOMELESS: A crane carefully moves the tram into position.
A specialist Dutch haulage firm was paid to transport the tram 12 miles from Princes Street to an industrial estate in Broxburn using five separate lorries.
Tram firm TIE said it could not say how much the job cost because it had yet to be invoiced, but industry experts said the bill would run to thousands.
TIE's depot had been expected to be completed by the end of the year, but construction has slowed due to the ongoing dispute with contractor Bilfinger Berger.
It is understood the tram had to move from Princes Street by the end of the month because it did not have planning permission to remain any longer.
Today, long-term tram critic and deputy council leader Councillor Steve Cardownie said: "This is just another part of the sorry debacle which the tram scheme has become. Nothing surprises me when it comes to this project now.
"Just when we thought it couldn't get any more farcical, we find out it is being moved because the Gogar depot is not ready.
"Serious questions have to be raised about the management of this project, which continues to cost the public more and more money. It truly seems that pantomime season is upon us.
"This is the latest example of inefficiencies and mistakes. They don't even know what this move will cost and that shows the cavalier fashion with which public funds are being treated."
The vehicle which has been taken to West Lothian was the first to be completed by tram manufacturer CAF. Tram bosses have already admitted to paying CAF to store more of the finished vehicles. The original order was for 27 tram cars, but it is now unlikely that so many will be needed, should the route be truncated.
Jim Macauley, head of Cadzow Heavy Haulage, said the operation to move the tram from Princes Street would have cost "somewhere between 2000 and 3000."
He said: "There are about three contractors in this country that could shift something that size and we're one of them, but nobody even asked us to price the job."
The final business case for the tram project, which was published in December 2007, scheduled the completion of the Gogar depot for the end of 2009.
However, tram chiefs later revised the plans, erecting a sign outside the depot which announced it would be finished in 2010.
That now looks unlikely due to the row with Bilfinger, which has seen much of the work on the route grind to a halt.
John Carson, a former head of maintenance for Network Rail and long-standing opponent of the trams, said: "The depot is going to be years late now - the whole thing is a disgrace.
"These are some of the biggest trams in the world, so there are not many other places that could take them even if we wanted to get rid of them."
A spokesman from the tram project insisted there was no charge for storing the vehicle in Broxburn but would not reveal the exact location. He said: "The tram vehicle has been moved to a storage location in Broxburn as a stepping stone for it being permanently housed at the Gogar tram depot.
"The tram vehicle proved to be a huge success with the public during its time on Princes Street as a tangible sign of progress on the project. In total, the tram recorded over 91,000 visitors as well as enjoying regular positive feedback on its size, comfort and design."