This beast of a machine – a Unimog or “universal motorized implement machine” – is set to come to the rescue of stricken trams in the Capital.
While it is a sight no-one hopes to see too often, the £150,000 multi-purpose vehicle complete with snow plough, winch and other gadgetry is tasked with keeping the city’s roads and rails open, whatever the weather.
Edinburgh tram bosses opted for the modern all-terrain Mercedes Benz – which has been given the Edinburgh Trams logo – because of its ability to ride on both roads and rails.
The 4.8-litre four-stroke diesel engine has eight forward gears and six reverse gears with a 145-litre fuel tank, so it won’t have to stop often.
It was unveiled just days after a stationary tram on Princes Street caused speculation that the vehicle had broken down before the route had even opened up to the public.
However, it was soon revealed it was just taking part in noise level tests, and Tom Norris, Edinburgh Trams director and general manager, said in the unlikely event of a breakdown the Unimog could quickly move in to sort the problem.
He said: “The general principle is that if a faulty tram can be removed from service without disruption, we will do this as soon as possible. If a tram can’t move on its own we will arrange for another tram – or in extremes a Unimog vehicle – to tow it to a suitable location, for example sidings or potentially back to the Gogar depot.”
Fire services in other parts of the UK and Australia use the multi-tonne vehicle to help tackle ferocious blazes.
Here, crew of the dual wheel and track off-roader will be tasked with maintaining all the structures, overheads, track, points and machinery on the tram route.
A lifting arm on the Unimog can be used with a cage to provide a platform for maintenance work on overhead tram lines or even the tram wash back at the depot.
Mr Norris added: “The Unimog is a multi-purpose road and rail vehicle which is capable of carrying or towing specially designed accessories for maintenance purposes.
“It is designed to facilitate many maintenance roles on the Edinburgh Trams network including recovering a failed tram. It is capable of driving both on the road and rail network, utilising two hydraulically lowered rail axles for guidance whilst rail mounted.”
And Mr Norris played down fears trams could cause hefty delays for motorists if one breaks down on a busy thoroughfare. He said: “Transport for Edinburgh will run a fully integrated public transport service for the city.
“We’ll offer a consistent and regular tram service but if an emergency situation affects the service, the Transport for Edinburgh network will cover the majority of situations.”