MORE concerns over Edinburgh's tram scheme have been raised after it emerged construction work is to keep going on a shelved section of the route and on 10 vehicles which will now not be needed when the scheme starts running.
The capital's under-fire tram company, Tie, said it had no plans to halt ongoing work in Leith, which has been dropped from the initial phase of the troubled project.
And it has insisted production work on the last 11 of the 27 tram vehicles ordered for the project will continue - despite admitting only 17 will be required to ferry passengers from Edinburgh Airport into the city centre.
However, there are huge doubts over the tram company's ability to get the system up and running as 380 million of the 500 million funding from the Scottish Government has already been spent. There are fears it could cost at least 700 million for the first phase from the airport to St Andrew Square.
The tram company yesterday stonewalled questions about how much its experts believe the scaled-back first phase will cost to deliver, and what extra funding will be needed to extend it to Newhaven, blaming the ongoing dispute with German construction giants Bilfinger Berger.
But Tie insisted it was still planning to start test runs by next year - near Edinburgh Airport - and has also pledged bus fares will not be put up to subsidise the tram system.
A report on the scaling back of the first phase revealed 16 trams have been completed by manufacturers CAF in Spain, with work already underway on the remaining 11. It is thought Tie is exploring options for selling off the other vehicles, estimated to have cost 2 million each.
A spokesman for Tie said: "Our understanding is that 17 vehicles would be needed for this section and we would make contingency arrangements should all the vehicles not be needed. Production has not been stopped and there are no plans to stop production at the present time."
One source said: "You would think the sensible thing to do would be to bring production to a halt on these vehicles, but Tie is locked into a contract with CAF, and until it has a deal to complete the first phase of the network, it doesn't have much option but to keep production on the vehicles going."
SNP councillor Steve Cardownie, deputy leader of Edinburgh City Council and one of the harshest critics of Tie's handling of the project, said: "It sounds as if Tie is going to have to find an Arthur Daley figure to flog some second-hand trams which will never actually have been used. They may be thinking if they can get rid of all of them it could help make up their huge shortfall in funding."
Meanwhile, Tie has insisted work will continue at sites in Leith, including at Lindsay Road and Tower Bridge.But Tie has dropped a commitment to run trams to the waterfront, saying only it would "like" to build the whole route to Newhaven.
The spokesman said: "The two core issues at the heart of the dispute with the contractor are around time and cost.
"It is still our intention to have the first visible sight of the tram running as being the test track circuit running between the airport, Gogar and Edinburgh Park and work on this section is continuing. If work continues as planned then this would be operational next year."