TRAM bosses are spending £500,000 on wages for drivers and other staff despite them having virtually nothing to do for 18 months.
Adverts for 11 staff have appeared – offering salaries between £25,000 and £80,000 – even though the first tram will not run in Edinburgh until the summer of 2014.
Tram bosses insist the newly-hired staff will be involved in “testing and commissioning” at a test track on the western outskirts of the city.
But critics of the troubled project are demanding to know why so many workers are needed so soon when there is so little to do.
Lothian Buses, who will operate the finished trams, are recruiting a general manager on a salary of £70,000 to £80,000.
Two drivers and controllers will be employed before the end of this month, with another eight being employed and fully trained by December.
Drivers are expected to pay paid around £25,000 – in line with an Edinburgh bus driver’s salary.
Based on the projected salaries, 11 members of staff will be paid around £487,500 from December this year when they are fully trained, to the day when the tram works are finished.
Conservative Lothians MSP Gavin Brown said Lothian Buses should explain why drivers and controllers needed to be employed so early.
He said: “Given the poor value that the taxpayer has had thus far from the tram project, I would call upon those who have taken these decisions to explain why people need to be in post so quickly and to justify their decisions.
“It’s incumbent upon the decision makers to explain that to the public and taxpayer.”
Lothian Buses said the first two employees will assist with the testing and commissioning work of the mini test track at Gogar depot, with an additional eight staff working at the track from Gogar to the airport, which is programmed to start by the end of the year.
The vacancies are full-time, permanent positions, with each staff member being trained for around two months.
Training will include tram driving, management of tram movements, work allocations, and control systems including voice communications, signalling and power management.
Lothian Buses confirmed that further positions would be advertised in the future, but would not say how many more drivers would be needed when tram works were complete.
Managing Director of Lothian Buses, Ian Craig, said: “Lothian Buses plc continues to provide management support and resource for an evolving operational and technical team that will ultimately be employed by Edinburgh Trams.
“As Edinburgh prepares to offer residents and visitors to the Capital an exciting new mode of travel by 2014, the tram recruitment process manager and front-line staff is getting under way, offering exciting career opportunities for local people to become tram drivers and conductors.”
Transport leader Lesley Hinds said she had confidence in Lothian Buses.
She said: “Lothian Buses has a great record of serving the travelling public, and I’m pleased to see that their plan for the management of the tram, and the integration with its award-winning buses, are taking shape.
“Construction across the length of the tram route is progressing well in line with the revised programme.”