Leader: ‘Acid test will be how many of us use them’

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HAVE you ever tried shaking a Save Our Hearts collection bucket down Easter Road, or appealing for a bit of quiet on Lothian Road at chucking-out time on a Saturday night?

As thankless tasks go you might think that persuading the Edinburgh public to love the trams would rank right at the top of any list. It is certainly true that many people wish we had never started out on the ill-starred project and no amount of slick public relations is ever going to change their minds. And it is easy to understand why, given the hellish experience of the last six years.

But as we prepare to move from the construction phase to seeing trams running through the Capital, our experience is about to change. Instead of roadworks, delays and spiralling bills, we will get a chance to see for ourselves what we have got for our £776 million.

The reaction of the invited guests who have had a sneak preview of what most of us will want to try – at least once – appears to be pretty much universal. The experience of being a passenger on one of our trams makes people more positive about them, whatever their viewpoint at the outset. It seems certain that once we’ve all had a shot on the trams we’ll feel at least a little better about having them in our city.

The recent admission that the council does not expect the trams to make a profit for at least three years, however, will do nothing to win converts to the cause. The great fear of most of the public now is that they will prove to be a millstone round the neck of Lothian Buses, eating up cash that would otherwise be invested in maintaining and improving local bus services.

The acid test will be how many passengers the line can attract. Given that the trams are here, the best result for the city will be a roaringly successful operation that strengthens calls for the line to be extended. But we are still a long journey away from contemplating that.