PASSENGERS will be riding the trams in Edinburgh by the end of the year, a former consultant to the £776 million project has predicted.
Vic Emery, who is also a former chairman of the scrapped Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (Tie), believes the transport project is ahead of its current schedule.
His comments to the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents conference in Pitlochry offer a silver lining to businesses and taxpayers who have had to cope with a series of delays and cost rises.
Shops along the route now hope it could be operating in time to give them a Christmas boost.
That timescale would be six months in advance of the council’s official launch date of summer 2014, but four-and-a-half years later than the one initially planned when funding was announced in 2003.
Mr Emery, who is chairman of the Scottish Police Authority, said: “I’ve nothing to do with Edinburgh trams any more. But I’m sure some people in Edinburgh will be using the tram service before the end of the year. It was OK when I left.”
Businesses have been told that test runs along the route will take place in the autumn. Much will then depend on how long is needed to make sure the trams run safely.
Michael Apter, chairman of the West End Association, said: “There was a meeting at the end of April. One statement made by the council then was, subject to any unexpected delays, we could anticipate seeing trams in Shandwick Place in August or September.
“The interesting question is how many months, or how many weeks [of testing]. It might be the time frame for that is very short.”
The testing will be done by an independent body, which means the council may not be able to commit to a time frame.
As well as chairman of the West End Association, representing businesses in the area, Mr Apter is the managing director of Paper Tiger, which has a shop along the tram route.
Like many Edinburgh businesses, it has suffered during roadworks and delays. However, Mr Apter said a pre-Christmas tram service would provide a timely boost.
“We’re looking forward to having a tram stop 100 metres from the premises,” he said. “We’re hoping it will deliver lots of new customers. We’re really hopeful there will be a passenger service by the end of the year.”
City of Edinburgh Council transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “Vic Emery is no longer involved in the tram project and, as I’ve previously said, we won’t speculate on the possibility that revised targets could be improved until we’re 100 per cent sure that they are achievable.
“In September, we will be in a position to announce a date when the travelling public will be able to use the tram.”
The end of the line is in sight
DETAILS of the final stage of the tram project have been unveiled, with overhead and underground lines to be installed as of next month.
Overhead cabling will start in mid-June from York Place in the city centre and work west towards Haymarket.
Lines will be erected in Princes Street and in St Andrew Square during a series of night shifts.
Outside the centre, many lines are now in place.
The full programme also includes underground cabling – 750 volt direct current power is fed into the overhead wires by a network of underground cables which will be pulled through ducts.
The work is the final stage of construction and it is understood that tram chiefs are aiming for a September completion.
Although several months of testing are due, this end date would fit with comments from Vic Emery and city business leaders, who say they have been repeatedly assured that work is ahead of schedule.
Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport leader, said: “Good progress continues all along the tram route and we’re
now approaching a stage,
in the city centre, where
road works are nearly finished.”