Tram souvenirs bid to bail out project overspend

TRAM souvenirs are set to be sold as bosses bid to reclaim some of the hundreds of millions of pounds spent on the scheme.

Our idea for a T-shirt keepsake. Picture: Comp

Merchandise such as mugs and T-shirts and even model carriages are tipped to be a big hit with tourists and tram enthusiasts.

Council chiefs are aiming to pocket £100,000 in the next financial year by selling the memorabilia – a tiny fraction of the £776 million outlay on the project.

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They will also aim to profit from models of other key Capital icons such as Greyfriars Bobby and the Scott Monument.

The move is revealed in the council’s budget plans for 2015-16, which aim to shave £28m from the city’s annual spending, with charges for parking and elderly care also set to rise.

Similar merchandise has proved popular in other cities – Transport for London, for instance, brings in £5m a year on the back of branded clothing, cushions, key rings, models and toys.

Price tags include £7.49 for a mug, while a pillow featuring a map of the London Underground is £27.99 and a London bus baby playsuit is £16.

Transport expert Robert Drysdale, a former committee member of the Cockburn Association, believes the move could prove a useful cash cow.

He said: “This was what was missing and I’m impressed that they are now thinking about it.

“The combination of trams and a city backcloth could be applied to various merchandise and has the potential to be quite popular, primarily with tourists and with transport enthusiasts.”

Professor Lewis Lesley, from development firm Tram Power, said merchandising was “entirely natural” for a major transport operator.

“Virtually all transport groups sell merchandise for tram and bus fans,” he said.

“It’s a very specialist market but people who are transport enthusiasts tend to have big pockets so they will buy expensive souvenirs.”

City leaders said they were keen to “promote the Capital and its assets”, but stressed that detailed plans were yet to be drawn up.

A council spokeswoman said: “Themes could include trams and cultural attractions, such as key landmarks and monuments like Greyfriars Bobby and the Scott Monument. It’s too early to specify what kind of products we’ll commission, but we want to ensure that whatever merchandise we go for is appealing and high quality.”

Finance convener Alasdair Rankin said he hoped attitudes of people angered by the cost of the tram project had softened enough for them to buy products.

“Generally, where trams are established they do become popular,” he said. “It’s worth trying and seeing what the reaction is.”

But Grant McKeeman, of Copymade, in West Maitland Street, who nearly went out of business due to the long-running delays and tram works outside his business, described the move as “laughable”.

He said: “I have no idea why somebody would want a tram keyring. I am sure the council will be keen to have them stocked in our lovely ‘tartan tat’ shops – they will fit in a treat.”