International firms fight to finish tram line

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By Kirsty Topping

 

Private firms could finish the tram line

FIRMS from across the world are lining up to complete Edinburgh’s tram system.

City leader Jenny Dawe said she had received a number of enquiries from firms keen to complete the route.

Councillors have already backed a plan to take the trams to St Andrews Square, leaving them just two months to find 228 million to complete that section of the line, and a private firm could take the line to its original destination of Newhaven.

Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, the transport leader, said that the council is exploring the possibility of letting a firm complete the 11.5 mile route and then renting it back to the council.

However, a decision on the remainder of the line will only be made once council chiefs have worked out how to fund the strech between Edinburgh Airport and the city centre.

Councillor Dawe said the council had to focus on making up the shortfall on the current section but that there had been a great deal of interest in the project.

She said: “The challenge now is to find the money. I have to say there are no shortage of ideas coming forward and I have been surprised by the number of e-mails I have had from all over the world – some from well-known companies. Many of these will be complete non-starters, though, because everyone thinks they understand the Edinburgh tram project but often they do not. Nevertheless, there are a lot of people that have a real willingness to help.”

Figures released by the council showed they expect to make 1.85 profit for every 1 spent on the project, but the calculation did not take into account money already spent on the tram line.

If the total cost of the project is taken into account, the council would lose 73 pence for every pound invested.Councillor Gordon Mackenzie said that the council was considering letting a private firm take over the building of the line from St Andews Square to Newhaven before renting the line back to the council

He said: “I have had a couple of approaches from different companies. We are happy to discuss it, but our position is that we’re not going to actively take any of this forward until we have a clear decision on funding to St Andrew Square.”Last week Transport Minister Keith Brown signalled that the Scottish Government was ready to help fund the trams by letting Edinburgh borrow against future business rate income.

 

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