By a Newsnet reporter
Edinburgh’s troubled tram system will be open for public use by the end of this year, according to Vic Emery, former chairman of Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (Tie).
Speaking to the conference of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents in Pitlochry on Friday, Mr Emery said that the project was now running ahead of its revised schedule, despite the delays and cost over-runs which have plagued the controversial project in the past.
If, as Mr Emery believes, the trams are running by the end of this year, the project will have been completed 6 months ahead of the revised schedule. Edinburgh Council had forecast that the trams would be operational by May next year. However when the project was commenced, the trams were originally intended to come into operation early in 2010 and trams were meant to run from Edinburgh Airport to Leith. The planned section of track between Edinburgh city centre and Leith has been suspended indefinitely, and the route will now terminate in Edinburgh city centre.
Preparations are currently being made to install overhead and underground cabling for the trams in Edinburgh city centre, the final piece of major construction work required to ready the system for operation.
However Lesley Hinds, Edinburgh City Council’s transport convener, played down claims that passengers would be able to use the trams before the end of this year, saying that the Council expected to announce the official opening date in September.
Ms Hinds said:
“Vic Emery is no longer involved in the tram project and, as I’ve previously said, we won’t speculate on the possibility that revised targets could be improved until we’re 100 per cent sure that they are achievable.
“In September, we will be in a position to announce a date when the travelling public will be able to use the tram.”
“Good progress continues all along the tram route and we’re now approaching a stage, in the city centre, where road works are nearly finished. This will be a welcome sight to traders, residents and visitors to the area this summer.
“This cable installation programme is the final major piece in the construction jigsaw but it’s a significant project which requires time. Contractors will carefully hang power wires overhead at the correct tension and they’ll pull miles of power cables and communication lines through underground ducts.
“Once this is done we’ll be closer to the rigorous testing phase which will fully prepare the system and the people of Edinburgh Trams for service next year.”
Scottish Transport Minister Keith Brown welcomed the announcement and said:
“The project is entering a crucial phase and the installation of overhead and underground cabling in the city centre section is another key milestone. I wish everyone involved in carrying out this complex operation over the summer well.
“The continued patience of local residents and businesses is to be applauded. They are hopefully now starting to see some tangible progress ahead of the crucial summer tourist season.”