THEY have already scoured Europe in an unsuccessful bid to off-load their unwanted tram cars.
Now city council leaders in Edinburgh want to turn the £2 million vehicles into “nocturnal couriers” to save them from redundancy.
The Scotsman has learned goods could be ferried between Edinburgh Airport and locations along the route into the city centre under a plan being floated with business groups.
Seven trams are already being tested at the recently-completed depot at Gogarburn, but another 20 are on their way to join them, even though at least half will not be needed. The scheme is planned to open in 2014. SNP councillors, who performed a major U-turn last year to rescue the tram project when it was on the verge of cancellation, are believed to be opposed to the idea of trams running through the night to deliver goods, deeming it “unworkable”.
However, Liberal Democrat councillor Gordon Mackenzie, transport leader on the council, said the proposal, which is at an early stage, could cut down on lorry traffic in the city.
The idea has been drawn up after the council drew a blank in efforts to off-load some of the 27 trams it ordered before the scheme was drastically cut back.
Instead of boasting two lines linking the waterfront with the city centre, Haymarket and the airport, only half a line will be built initially, to St Andrew Square. Mr Mackenzie said: “This is something we have discussed with the business community, but only very informally.
“The idea is still at an early stage and there would be some hurdles to overcome, but it would obviously reduce the number of unnecessary HGV journeys in and out of the city centre at night-time.”
Gordon Henderson, development manager at the Federation of Small Businesses in Edinburgh, said: “Is this the silly season?
“It would seem bizarre if the council was to try to fill holes in its budgets by setting up something like this that would compete with the private sector. There would also be a limit to the number of areas that could be served.”
Graham Birse, head of policy at Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: “In principle, we would support this.
‘“It’s the kind of thing that’s done in other cities and could be sustainable.”