It was 3.30pm yesterday when the first tram seen on Princes Street in daylight for more than 50 years began snaking its way in from Haymarket.
Seven years of turmoil and a £776 million hit to the council’s coffers later, this was a genuine “were you there?” moment in the city’s long and colourful history.
That it was empty, travelling slowly and there was no opportunity to actually get on it seemed immaterial.
On board instead was a team of engineers and Edinburgh Trams general manager Tom Norris, who tweeted pictures along the 8.7-mile test run from the Gogar depot to York Place and back.
Outside, shoppers and commuters recorded the event on their smartphones, with the empty tram causing a genuine sense of excitement as it ploughed on towards York Place. Tram enthusiast John Dunnet, 77, from Lothian Road, who rode the city’s last tram back in 1957, was among those out on the streets.
“It’s great to see, I’ve been waiting a long time,” he said.
“I was on the last Edinburgh tram and have been waiting all that time to have them return. I now look forward to my first ride as a passenger.”
Mr Dunnet said now was a time for the trams project to look forward after being plagued by delays and cost overruns: “What has gone on is in the past – I’m sure in a year everyone will think differently.”
However, such optimism was far from the dominant emotion on Princes Street yesterday. George Glenn, 52, from Drumbrae, said: “They’ve cost an absolute fortune and only run along a single section of track from the airport to the city centre. It will be a while before people learn to love them.”
Rick Merchant, 22, from Southside, added: “It’s good to see them on Princes Street at last, but they’ve been a disaster for the city.”
However, architect Mark Westcott, 51, from London, was among the more upbeat onlookers. He said: “I came out especially to see this. When I heard they were being tested I grabbed my camera. It’s a piece of history and I’m delighted to see it.
“There may be a few more teething problems, but eventually I’m sure people will come around to appreciating the service they provide.” Until now, trams have only been running through the city centre at night, but testing is now set to be ramped up ahead of the first passenger services, planned for May.
City transport convener Lesley Hinds posted a picture of her staff watching the tram in the distance from her office in City Chambers. Cllr Hinds said: “It’s a historic moment for Edinburgh and reflects a key moment in the project where we’ll now begin to see more and more trams out on the full route during the day.”
Mr Norris said: “Like the first night-time tram, it seemed to generate lots of interest – most people’s first response seemed to be to reach for their phone or camera and get a picture.”