Trams could be set for partial private ownership


By Kirsty Topping

EDINBURGH’S beleaguered tram system could be partly handed over to a private firm, it emerged today (tues).

Bosses on the project have met with the company to talk about the possibility of them building and running extensions to the system.

The firm wants to build the remainder of the line to Newhaven after current builders Bilfinger Berger have completed the section to St Andrews Square and could even run their own trams on the route.

Lothian buses will run the section between the airport and St Andrews Square, which is initially set to run at a loss.

The council said that it would prefer not to have an

“alternative operator’ to run the rest of the route but transport convener Councillor Gordon Mackenzie admitted they were exploring

“other models of delivery’ rather than try and find more money to fund the route past St Andrews Square.

It is believed that the current shortfall on getting the trams project to St Andrews Square is between 150,000 and 200,000.

Cllr Mackenzie said:

“We could look at other models of delivery. There are people who have approached the council, saying

“We would be happy to build extentions to the tram network’ and then you get into a discussion as to whether they would run it or lease it to the council – that’s a model which doesn’t require the same upfront investment from the public sector. “

Having two different operators on the line is likely to lead to a number of issues, such as whether tickets will be valid for the entire route and whether prices would be consistent between the two companies.

Critics of the project have raised concerns that the entire line will end up being sold off to the private sector, as happened in the Yorkshire town of Sheffield when Stagecoach bought their tram system for just 1.15m after 240m had been spent on building it.

John Carson, an anti-trams campaigner said the operation of the forst section would take its toll on Lothian Buses.

He said:

“Lothian Buses will be out of business in five years’ time.

“By the time they get the next stage built they will be selling off Lothian Buses to First or Stagecoach and they’ll get the tram line thrown in for 1. As for the route, where are the passangers coming from?

“This is the biggest transport disasterin the world at the moment, I don’t know why anyone would want to go near it. “

A meeting later this month is due to decide the future of the project, but it has emerged that key figures on the cost of continuing or canceling the project might not be available.