First trams roll in 52 days... but they’ll only go 470 metres

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It is the moment that has, at times, seemed like it would never happen.

On December 2, new moving trams will be seen on Edinburgh’s streets – nearly a decade after the ambitious plans for a series of tram lines were first mooted.

However, the launch date does not mean passengers will finally be able to jump aboard, as it is just the day that the first public test run will take place.

The vehicles are expected to be delivered to the Gogar depot from storage in Spain and West Lothian in the coming weeks.

Initial tests will be carried out in the depot itself, which was today being fitted with power for the first time, before moving outside to a test track that runs parallel to the A8.

The tests, along the 470-metre track, will provide the public with its first opportunity to see a new city tram move under its own power.

Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, the city’s transport leader, said: “Electrification of the depot is a very positive step forward for the project and paves the way for track testing of the first tram vehicles later this year. It illustrates, on the ground, how far we have come since mediation.

“We are now seeing people working on Princes Street and west Edinburgh. The more we see these sorts of developments, the more it gives confidence that the project is back on track.”

Electricity will be gradually installed in the depot from today, followed by electrification of the power lines from November 29.

Meanwhile, it is understood that tram firm TIE will be formally wound up within the next four weeks.

Finance Secretary John Swinney said at the weekend that its “day of reckoning” has been “too long in the coming”.

But Cllr Mackenzie today hit back and insisted the Scottish Government should take its share of the blame for the project’s woes.

He said: “I do not think it is good enough for anyone to stand on the sidelines and say ‘it is not our fault, we did not have anything to do with it’. There has been a lot of people running for cover in the tram project and I do not think that has served the public well.”

Cllr Andrew Burns, leader of the city’s Labour group, said: “If John Swinney and the Scottish Government have nothing to hide, they should get on and instigate a public inquiry.

“This was a Scottish Government grant. They were responsible for that grant and there are very serious questions to be asked about why the Scottish Government took Transport Scotland off the project board in June 2007 only to put them back again four years later.”