TIE looks to raise funds by renting out trams

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VEHICLES built for Edinburgh’s beleaguered tram scheme could be rented out to other cities as project bosses look to raise extra funds.

Tram firm TIE has a contract for 27 of the vehicles at £2 million each, but they are unlikely to all be needed as the line is now set to be opened in stages.

Transport for London, which runs the Croydon Tramlink, is among those looking to lease new or used rolling stock and has already been linked with taking some of the Capital’s trams.

The prospect of leasing the vehicles to the London borough was first raised in late 2009, but at that time TIE insisted any move would merely be an opportunity to test the trams on a working network.

However as work remains halted amid the row with contractor Bilfinger Berger, bosses are looking at way of making money from vehicles which are surplus to requirements.

A spokesman for TIE said today: “All our energy is currently focused on the mediation process and finding an equitable resolution to the ongoing dispute. However, it is only prudent that we look at every option going forward so we haven’t ruled out the possibility of leasing some of Edinburgh’s tram vehicles if not immediately required.”

Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, the city’s transport leader, said leasing the vehicles would be “one of the options” considered. He said: “We will be looking at whether there is surplus stock to lease, but I don’t think we will be looking at selling them.

“If we are to open the line incrementally, then it’s likely we will not need all of the vehicles from day one.”

Work on the tram vehicles, which is being carried out by Basque firm CAF, is one of the few areas of the project where work is said to be progressing well. The original order of 27 was intended for use on lines 1a and 1b, but with plans for 1b postponed and the partial opening of 1a under consideration, Edinburgh will be left with too many vehicles.

It is likely that Edinburgh’s trams would have to be modified if they were to be run onsystems elsewhere in Europe or the UK.

Croydon, which is currently undertaking a tendering process to find up to ten new trams, has seen the number of passenger journeys on its network per year increase by 45 per cent in the last decade.

Transport for London said it was looking for trams which could be modified at a “reasonable cost”, but a spokesman would not confirm whether there had been an approach from Edinburgh.

John Carson, a former head of maintenance at Network Rail and a long-standing critic of the trams, said TIE would struggle to lease its vehicles. He said: “These are some of the biggest trams in terms of length in the world. Not only are they much longer than Croydon’s trams, but they are also much heavier. That said, I suppose anything is possible.”

Mr Carson said he believed opening the tram line between Edinburgh Airport and St Andrew Square would leave bosses requiring as little as eight trams.

cmarshall@edinburghnews.com