FED-UP Scots shoppers have given a big thumbs-down to the closest thing Edinburgh has to trams – a Santa train.
In a bid to cheer up the city’s hard-pressed taxpayers, the council arranged for a seasonal locomotive to ferry shoppers along Princes Street.
But the £2-a-time trips are proving about as popular as the ill-fated, £1bn trams project itself.
The 25-seat capacity Santa train – complete with a Father Christmas – is more like a ghost train, regularly running well short of capacity.
One city resident wrote to a national newspaper to say she was “disappointed to see Edinburgh’s Santa train setting off along Princes Street with no passengers at 5pm”.
With work on the trams not due to finish for at least two years, Edinburgh shoppers queued up to brand the Santa Train a “disgrace” and “completely ridiculous”.
Jennifer Ochoa, 32, a student from the city’s Colinton district, said: “I think it’s completely ridiculous, I definitely would not pay for the train out of principle.
“I didn’t actually agree with the trams in the first place and now we are paying through the nose for them, so no, I won’t be going for a ride on the Santa train.”
James Kilbrook, (40), a business owner from Musselburgh, East Lothian, said: “The Council are grim. It’s a complete fiasco. You would think they would give the train for free to say sorry for the mess with the trams, but you have to pay for it.”
The 40-year-old added: “It’s just a way to make money from tourists as well, it’s completely embarrassing and hopeless.”
Robert Ramsey, a solicitor from Edinburgh, said: “Well, you don’t want to sound like Scrooge but I think money could be spent in better ways.”
Mr Ramsay, 42, added: “It’s just an added expense for tax payers.”
William Crawford, a 54-year-old electrical engineer from Inverness, said: “I think it’s a disgrace. It is a complete waste of money. The tram project is ridiculous and it is a complete screw up. The council get away with murder and ordinary people have to pay.”
Eben Wilson, Director of lobbying group Taxpayer Scotland, said: “It’s not surprising that visitors are frustrated.
“We’re spending millions on the whole tram project without seeing much result and this comes across as a bit of a bad joke.
“We’d like to see a lot more transparency as to what has been spent on these seasonal attractions and who is making any gains from them.”
There appeared to be confusion within the council as to who was funding the Santa train.
One representative said it was funded partly from the council’s Christmas Animations Events budget.
But another spokesman insisted the Santa train was run and funded by a private business.
He said: “The train is of no cost to the council and is being run on Princes Street during the trams work embargo as part of the Council’s overall Christmas programme.”
The original budget for the trams stood at £375m but has since ballooned to an estimated £1bn.
The tram will now run from Edinburgh Airport to St Andrew Squarein the city centre. A plan to cut the route even further, stopping it at Haymarket, was scrapped after the Scottish Government threatened to pull its contribution.
Work on the trams was halted two years ago after a dispute with building firm Bilfinger Berger. A new deal has since been signed with the German firm.
The remaining works will take place between now and the expected completion date of summer 2014.