Return of the tramworks

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Tram work will return to Princes Street next weekend – as it emerged that the Scottish Government has still not confirmed whether it will provide any more funding.

City chiefs have announced that road diversions will be introduced gradually from 5am next Saturday, with the full diversions to be in place by the following Monday morning, when work will begin.

The consortium headed by Bilfinger Berger is carrying out work to repair the tracks that have been laid at its own cost after damage was discovered.

The Scottish Government has still not pledged to reinstate the £72 million it withdrew when the council made the decision to stop the line at Haymarket – despite council chiefs only having until a few more days to get the settlement signed with the consortium. The work is scheduled to get under way just days after the deadline on Wednesday.

Businesses in the city centre are bracing themselves for more pain when work resumes.

Gordon Henderson, development manager for the Federation of Small Businesses in the east of Scotland, said: “These works have been planned and discussed for a long time, they have got to be done and we hope that they will be completed as quickly as possible.

“Of course there will be an effect on Princes Street and other areas and of course it will be painful, but it has got to be done so let’s get on with it.”

The work was originally supposed to start on September 3 and it is estimated that the two-week delay could have cost the council around £600,000.

The diversions will see buses, taxis and cyclists diverted along George Street, while general traffic will be rerouted along Queen Street. The work will be halted again on November 24 so that it does not impact on Christmas and New Year. It will restart in January and is due to be completed by July.

Meanwhile, concern is growing about whether Scottish Government funding will be reinstated before the settlement agreement is signed.

Councillor Lesley Hinds, transport spokeswoman for the Labour group, said: “There is no written guarantee and the concern is how can the council sign the contract on the 14th when they don’t know if the £72m will come forward?

“I would urge most strongly for Councillor Dawe, Cllr Mackenzie and the chief executive to get that in writing before they sign that contract.

“If we sign the contract with Bilfinger and we do not get that money from Transport Scotland, then that is £72m that we will have to find.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman today said that funding has not been confirmed.

But city transport leader Gordon Mackenzie said he was “not anticipating any problems with Transport Scotland, which had signed up to a St Andrew Square tramline”.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We recognise the difficult circumstances that the council has faced as it seeks to make the right decisions for the people of Edinburgh.

“It is appropriate that ministers now give full consideration to all of the factors in the council’s revised proposals before making any further decisions.”

A council spokesman said: “Discussions are ongoing with Transport Scotland regarding the recent council decision to build the tram route to St Andrew Square and we await their formal response.”