Tram bosses scour Europe to find new home for carriages

0
Have your say

City chiefs have launched a desperate Europe-wide hunt to find a buyer for Edinburgh’s unwanted trams.

Officials have already failed to lease ten of the project’s £2 million tram vehicles to Croydon.

Now they have set their sights further afield – with Turkey and Norway among the possible options.

But the attempt to find a home for the vehicles, which aren’t needed because the tram line will only be built as far as St Andrew Square, has been branded “wishful thinking” by opponents of the scheme.

Council chiefs have carried out an assessment that shows “potential demand” for four trams for two different UK projects: the proposed new “Abbey Line” between Watford and St Albans and a possible expansion of the fleet used for the Sheffield Supertram.

They also believe that “light rail developments” are being progressed in Turkey, while Oslo may want to resolve “temperature-related unreliability problems” with its fleet.

Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie, leader of the anti-tram SNP group on the council, said: “There is a lack of detail in a whole number of things and a lot of assumptions have been made. They look at the best-case scenario rather than a worst-case and that is a cause for concern.

“There is scant information on Turkey; I suppose they will say it is difficult to give detail until you’re in the position to sell, but we know they were unsuccessful in terms of leasing to Croydon.

“From the business case in 2006 to today, reports have been beset by optimistic assumptions that have not borne fruit.

“There has been a lot of wishful thinking in previous reports, this might be more of the same.”

Councillors are to be asked on Thursday to approve a tram project rescue deal that would see the council borrow £231m to meet the new project costs of £776m. The repayments, at £15.3m a year for 30 years, are set to take the actual cost of the project beyond £1 billion.

Cllr Jeremy Balfour, leader of the Conservative group on the council, said: “I am not sure there is a market out there for them. I think this is a shot in the dark.”

Cllr Lesley Hinds, transport spokeswoman for the Labour group, said: “The likelihood of it happening is not that high, but we do have to look at every option.”

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh Trams said: “It’s sensible to keep all options open when looking at potential funding streams. The leasing of tram vehicles is something we will continue to explore.”

mblackley@edinburghnews.com