THERE was a certain inevitability that when Edinburgh’s first tram finally arrived, it would be later than billed.
And so it was that when the first of the £2 million vehicles made its way into the Gogar depot yesterday, it kept everyone waiting just that little bit longer than expected.
Straight off the boat from Amsterdam, the tram had travelled on the back of three flatbed lorries up the A1, after docking at Newcastle early in the morning.
While it had been due in Edinburgh at 11am sharp yesterday, poor weather affecting the overnight sea crossing saw its eventual entrance delayed until closer to 1pm.
The vehicle had begun its long journey in Irun, northern Spain, the base of manufacturer CAF, which forms part of the tram consortium alongside Bilfinger Berger and Siemens.
Despite being the first of the 27 trams to arrive at the depot, there is another languishing in a West Lothian goods yard, after previously being on show in Princes Street.
It, too, is expected to move across to the depot in the coming days, as work on the tram project finally begins to gain momentum after a protracted row with contractors.
In a further sign of how things have changed, transport secretary Keith Brown is expected to visit the depot in the coming weeks with SNP ministers not previously keen on associating themselves with the project. Unfortunately for tram bosses, the arrival of the vehicle – and the first positive development for some time – came on one of the wettest days of the year.
Work to unload the seven separate modules was expected to take most of yesterday, with all the remaining vehicles due to roll off the production line and arrive in Edinburgh by the end of the year.
While the 27 trams were initially intended for both the line between Edinburgh Airport and Newhaven and a further “spur” line to Granton, it is now thought as few as seven will be needed to run between the airport and St Andrew Square.
Tram bosses had previously hoped to lease some of the vehicles to Croydon, but missed out on a deal with Transport for London, which runs the town’s tram system.
Work will now get under way on testing the tram, after overhead power lines in and around Gogar went live last week.
From early December, the tram will run on test track running parallel to the A8.
Jenny Dawe, leader of Edinburgh city council, said: “The delivery of the first tram to the depot is an important milestone for the project. It illustrates how far we have come since mediation and the good progress that has been made in driving the project forward in such a short period of time.
“With track testing due to begin at the depot later this year, we can now look forward to seeing the trams in motion for the first time.”
Graham Birse, deputy chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, added: “After all the recent debates about the funding, the route and the termination of the line at Haymarket or St Andrew Square, it’s fair to say we were all a bit weary of the project and the pace of progress.
“The agreement reached by the city and the consortium seemed to be a significant development, and the first tram arriving at the depot is an indication that all parties are determined to get this project under way and completed. It’s a sign that progress is being made at last.”