John McLellan: Even in Seville, you can’t escape Edinburgh politics

A tram makes its way through Seville
A tram makes its way through Seville
Have your say

On a short break to Seville last weekend, who should tap my shoulder as I walked past the City Hall, but our very own planning convener Neil Gardiner. Both on holiday under our own steam, not junketing in Andalusia, I hasten to add.

Our brief conversation inevitably turned to the tram gliding past and if there is controversy about completing 5km of track here, imagine arguing for a line which cost millions of euros, is only a couple of kilometres long and has only five stops. If we think Edinburgh panders to tourists, this is essentially for tourists who can’t walk about in the 50-degree summer heat.

READ MORE: Ex-minister claims Edinburgh trams ‘value for money’

Locals use the extensive bus network and commuters the relatively new 18km, 22-stop Metro line, built for just short of a billion euros (about £870 million) compared to the £1bn the Edinburgh tram will cost by the time it goes the 19km, 22-stop route to Newhaven.

Like Edinburgh’s, the tram carriages were built by Spanish firm CAF, but are battery powered with the cantilever picking up quick recharges at each stop, so there are no overhead cables disfiguring the city centre.

More disfiguring, however, is the infamous ‘mushrooms’ sculpture – a giant wooden structure over what was the old market. Structural engineers Arup discovered the original design was unfeasible and the cost eventually doubled to 100 million euros. Pictured in isolation they look staggering, like something from Star Wars, but in the middle of a historic square they look like a monstrous practical joke. Could never happen here, could it?

READ MORE: Revealed: final cost of Edinburgh trams scheme will be £1bn