AS everyone in Edinburgh knows, it has already been a very dear project. So it was perhaps fitting that as a media pack descended on Gogar to witness the first full speed test of the city’s trams – it was a very particular animal which threatened to derail the photocall.
Contractors were ready to go when the roe deer darted across the rails in front of bemused onlookers.
Transport Minister Keith Brown, who was there to watch the test runs, joked it could have been a PR disaster.
“That would be one way to make the trams more unpopular with the public – if they’d ran over and killed the deer,” he said.
Luckily the tram, which reached speeds of 43mph during the tests between the depot and the airport, managed to safely negotiate the short hop with no animal casualties.
Mr Brown, who with the SNP voted against the project in 2007, went on to say that the public should be heartened to see the project finally taking shape.
“Whatever people’s views on the trams, I don’t think there’s anyone that doesn’t want to see it running and I think traders will be at the top of that queue.
“The focus has got to be no more delays and I think people will conclude there’s a real discipline now that was much needed.”
The demonstrations yesterday, held on a 1.7-mile stretch of track due to be handed over to the council in March, were hailed as “a milestone” by transport convener Lesley Hinds.
She said: “Many people in Edinburgh wouldn’t have believed they would ever see a tram going on the track. It’s hugely encouraging to see it running at full pace. It’s a tangible sign of just how far this project has come since mediation last year.
“Obviously the tram system has damaged the image of Edinburgh and until people see it’s actually up and running, they won’t believe it. I can understand their frustration but I hope the public’s confidence will be restored.”
She added that work was on track to be completed within the revised £776 million budget and for summer 2014.
“On-street works in the city centre will continue next year, of course, but we are doing everything possible to limit disruption.”
It wasn’t all rosy for tram bosses yesterday, however, as they faced new questions over whether the project was still on schedule after it was announced the road closure on the east side of St Andrew Square would not be lifted at the end of the month as planned.
The target programme for tram constructions published by the council says both the road closure and traffic management had been due to finish by Quarter 4 this year. But the council said the document listing the target dates were “misleading” and had been taken down from the website.
Josh Miller, chairman of the George Street Association, said he did not understand the apparent delay in St Andrew Square.
He said: “It has dragged on longer than I thought. But my overall sense is they are cracking on and doing as much as they can. I hope it is not going to slip.”