Comment: Tram route has potential to be asset

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IT seems so real all of a 
sudden.

Only yesterday the trams still felt like a distant prospect, something that we knew was on the way at some point in the future – but we didn’t really picture ourselves travelling on them.

Maybe it’s because we have spent so long talking about them. It is now more than a decade since the project was given the go-ahead. And the delays mean we have got used to taking finishing dates with a pinch of salt.

But now we can all see them for ourselves right in the heart of the city.

It has been an extremely long and painful haul to get to this point. And no one should forget just how awful things have been.

But today is not a day for recriminations. There have been plenty of them already. And there will be the chance to put the questions all of Edinburgh wants answered when the public inquiry into the botched construction of the tram line begins in the New Year.

Regardless of what has gone before, we are now on the brink of launching a fast, modern transport system for the Capital. The stunted route is not as extensive as we were first promised, or would have wanted, but it still has the potential to be a great asset.

Tonight a tram will crawl down Princes Street for the first time in 57 years. It is a slow start. But soon passengers will be using the line to get between the airport, York Place and 14 stops in between.

It will transform the travel habits of many living and working in in and around the west of Edinburgh and the city centre. We have already seen how it can also be the catalyst for regeneration in some of the areas it serves, by attracting new businesses.

Hopefully, the tram line that we have will prove to be successful, so successful in fact that we have to think about extending it. But we are still a long way from that.

For now, the time has come to start looking forward, and think about how we can make the most of what we have got.