WORK on a key section of the Edinburgh tram route is running up to five months ahead of schedule, it has emerged.
Senior business leaders say that on-street works are now at an advanced stage in the west end of the city.
Resurfacing which was not due to be carried out until the summer is already under way and local traders have been told barriers are expected to be lifted to allow better pedestrian access by next month.
Work in the city centre is also progressing faster than expected because of a mild winter and contractors getting ahead of schedule before Christmas.
Tram bosses have remained tight-lipped in recent months about publicising any advance in the schedule, largely due to concerns they could slip behind due to winter weather.
Senior city leaders have also played down suggestions that the £776 million network could be ready before the scheduled summer 2014 date, despite business leaders being assured of better than expected progress.
Michael Apter, chairman of the West End Association, said: “We’ve seen some rapid progress since the turn of the year and they are currently resurfacing Shandwick Place. There is also only one section to be relaid between the city centre and Haymarket. The tracks are down and we hadn’t expected resurfacing works, which is now ongoing, for several months.”
Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, which represents 600 city centre businesses, said that work in central Edinburgh is also ahead of schedule, but said it was difficult to judge how the entire route was progressing.
Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport leader, said: “Certain parts of the project will be ahead at any one stage and in March there will be a update of how works are progressing.
“We are visibly doing very well but once we’ve got over the winter we will have a much better idea of where we are.”