Life-size replica of Edinburgh tram finds new home in Leith

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By Oliver Farrimond

A LIFE-SIZE replica of Edinburgh’s controversial tram system was lowered into place in the Capital’s busy Leith Walk area yesterday.

The 15m mock-up, which was moved from its previous home on Princes Street, is expected to show local residents and businesses how the tram can run in narrow streets.

However local business leaders expressed scepticism about the project, which has been at the centre of an angry dispute between contractors and council bosses for much of the year.

Alan Rudland from the Leith Business Association said that the association had asked for the tram to be brought down from Princes Street after seeing the popularity of the mock-up.

Mr Rudland, 43, said: “The Princes Street tram had more than 70,000 visitors, and we’re keen to see the effect this will have on businesses in Leith.

“However I remain unconvinced about the project – people will get used to them but we’re concerned that they will cause a lot of problems for local businesses.

“I also think people are going to find the routes more problematic than anticipated, as the seating on the trams seems to be limited.”

The project was embroiled in a fresh controversy last week after it was revealed that plans for multi-million pound extension had been ditched.

The extension, which would have run from transport hub Haymarket to Granton, was shelved due to the economic downturn.

The move has sparked new fears that the project will run further over budget and over schedule – but tram bosses were keen to stress the long-term benefits.

Alistair Richards, project manager for Edinburgh Trams, said: “Leith has been a focal point for much of the tram works to date and we believe that it is important that those who live and work there have the opportunity to experience the reason for the activity.

“I’m sure that the people of Leith will be as enthusiastic and positive as the thousands that visited the tram mock-up in the city centre.”

27 trams are expected to operate on the route, which will provide a rail link between Edinburgh airport and the city centre for the first time.

The mock-up will be open to the public from 11.30am to 5.30pm starting this week, and will display the drivers cab and a section of the carriage for visitors to examine.

However many residents remain angry about the development, which has de-railed Princes Street traffic and caused large amounts of disruption to the city centre.

Local Eleazar De Rego said that he thought that the project was a “waste of money”.

Mr De Rego, 50, said: “Edinburgh already has one of the best public transport systems in Europe and the funds could have gone towards mending our roads or making the buses greener.

“I also think the workmanship has been extremely shoddy – tram workers have dug the same hole outside my house 16 times.”

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