Edinburgh tram project seems set to survive

THE increasingly costly Edinburgh tram project may survive after all – following the publication of a report on which the city council will vote on 30 June.

It is said that scrapping the project, which is running years late, would cost almost as much as launching a service between central Edinburgh and the airport.

A report which considers the options has now been published, and when the full council meets on 30 June it will decide what to do next.

Costs have spiralled out of control, and there have been long and bitter disputes between the council's tram development company TIE and the contractors Bifinger Berger, during which work has sometimes all but stopped.

27 new trams have been bought, and the depot at Gogar is also virtually ready.

The network should have been much larger, including a section from Edinburgh city centre to Leith and Newhaven, and even if the system does open the fleet is now much bigger than necessary.

Ten of the trams have been offered to Transport for London, after TfL invited tenders to enlarge its fleet, but industry sources have been suggesting that TfL is set to choose an Eastern European supplier, partly because Edinburgh is understood to be offering only a limited lease which does not suit TfL's requirements.

When the council meets next week it will have to decide, first of all, whether to abandon the project, but abandonment is expected to cost £750 million -- only £20 million less than proceeding with a service on the truncated Line 1 to the airport.

The city council is expected to favour going ahead, saying that the benefits 'would provide the greatest certainty of delivering the first phase of the tram network and realising some benefit for the investment already made, albeit at a higher cost than previously anticipated. It would also help considerably in unlocking the development potential of West Edinburgh, enable the tram-train interchange at Gogar to go ahead and ensure that the tram runs into the heart of the city centre and can be integrated with Lothian Buses'.

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