We're right back on track say tram chiefs

TRAM chiefs today insisted the first phase of the £545 million project was on track for summer completion, despite new figures showing one section of the work is only a third finished.

Utility diversion works, which should have been completed months ago, are still only 70 per cent complete, with work between Newhaven and Leith Walk only 39 per cent done.

Shirley Anne-Somerville, the Lothians MSP who obtained the latest figures using freedom of information laws, said the works slippage showed the tram project had now gone from "fiasco to farce".

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But tram firm TIE said it remained confident that all the utility diversions would be complete by the summer.

Ms Somerville said: "With 30 per cent of utility works still to be done at this stage, I am extremely concerned that the project's finances are completely off the rails. Despite continuous denials from TIE that there was anything other than minor delays, it was clear to everyone suffering the chaos that they were seriously behind schedule – we just didn't know quite how far behind.

"The lack of progress between Newhaven and Leith is particularly worrying. It raises suspicions that this section may be set to be scrapped."

Earlier this year, sources close to the project said ditching the stretch of the route from Newhaven to Leith was one option that tram bosses had explored.

It was also rumoured that bosses had looked at pressing ahead with opening the Haymarket to Edinburgh Airport section – leaving the rest of the route, including Leith Walk and Princes Street, to be completed at a later date.

The new figures showed work to the west of the city to be progressing well, with all the utility diversions now complete at Gogar, Edinburgh Park and between Roseburn and Balgreen Road.

The first stage of work between the west of Princes Street and Haymarket is three-quarters complete, but just over half the work between McDonald Road and Princes Street has been finished.

Alan Rudland, vice-chairman of the Leith Business Association, said it was "disheartening" that so much had still to be done, but stressed communication had improved between the tram firm and local businesses.

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He said: "It's disheartening to hear they are so far behind at such an early stage of the project. I can only hope that the experience TIE have had in Leith Walk will encourage them to work more closely with residents and local businesses."

The diversions have seen contractors move more than 30,000 metres of pipes and cables under the city's streets since work began.

Trams project director Steven Bell said: "I'm pleased to confirm that the outstanding utility work will be completed progressively during the summer."

Replica pulls 3,000 visitors down to Leith

NEARLY 3,000 people have paid a visit to the city's model tram since it went on display in Constitution Street, the council said today.

The replica was moved to Leith after a seven-week stint in Princes Street, which saw it draw a total of 74,000 visitors, more than 20,000 of them in the first week alone.

The city council said local businesses in Leith were "thrilled" with the arrival of the 15-metre mock-up, which went on display on 20 April.

Gordon Burgess, of the Leith Traders' Association, said: "It's great that thousands have already visited.

"It's a great excuse to pop down to Leith and check out the shops, bars, cafs and unique atmosphere."

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The council said 55 per cent of those who had visited the mock-up in Princes Street were now in favour of the project, with 27 per cent against and the remainder indifferent.

Yesterday, the Evening News revealed that tram bosses were paying a worker to spend the night guarding the tram in Leith. The council said the security measures taken in Constitution Street were vital for protecting its "asset".

• www.edinburghtrams.com

• www.edinburgh.gov.uk

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