EDINBURGH council is spending £160,000 opening a “ludicrous” tram shop – in premises closed down as a result of the disastrous project.
Sweet shop Sugacane closed its doors earlier this year, blaming the ongoing tram works for ruining business, and now the former shop will be taken over by a tax-payer funded “Tram Shop.”
The tram drop-in-centre will employ up to six customer service staff to answer customer queries and offer information on the scheme.
The shop, which is set to open in mid-June, will remain open until the trams start running.
Critics have slammed the “ludicrous” plans, calling the shop a “waste of money”.
Council chiefs said the tram shop would host talks and present exhibitions on the trams and said the maroon-painted shop would be a focal point for the project.
SNP deputy council leader Steve Cardownie, said the planned shop was “ludicrous”.
He added: “This has never come near me for a decision. When we have tight budgets, on the face of it this does not look like value for money.
“I will be asking questions about this. I don’t see the rationale for it and I think the public will be dismayed their money is being spent this way.”
The council argued that local businesses had requested that the trams have an “increased presence” in the area, but Michael Apter, chairman of West End Association disagreed.
He said: “This is not something we have asked for. A presence on the ground might have been requested but that was as much about managing the site. There’s a Lothian Buses shop just across the road – I don’t know why they couldn’t just have put a desk in there.”
Mr Apter said that Sugacane had closed earlier this year due to continuous tram disruptions.
The council will pay out £30,000 of tax payers money a year for a two-year lease on the Shandwick Place premises.
Fitting work on the building is expected to cost £100,000.
The basement of the shop will be used to provide office space for other tram staff.
Edinburgh council transport convener Gordon Mackenzie said he would be asking council chiefs to justify the costs.
“I’m all in favour of having a presence close to the traders in Shandwick Place, but I’m not prepared to justify that level of expenditure without a further detailed breakdown of the costs,” he added.
Labour group transport spokeswoman Lesley Hinds said she had been aware of the plans to open the shop, adding: “The public will think it’s a bottomless pit for the trams.”
But Tory group transport spokesman Allan Jackson said the tram shop was a good idea.
He said: “I think it’s a reasonable idea to have a presence in the area. I think the public will appreciate that.”
An Edinburgh council spokesman said: “We made a commitment to the West End business community earlier this year to increase our presence in the city centre – the idea being to offer traders greater access to support over the course of the constructions works.”