Page last updated at 18:59 GMT, Tuesday, 24 July 2007 19:59 UK

Edinburgh tram timetable unveiled

Artist impression of an Edinburgh tram
The 600m project is expected to take three years to complete

Transport officials have vowed to keep disruption to a minimum as detailed construction plans for a new 600m tram network for Edinburgh are unveiled.

Work began on the route of the Edinburgh tram scheme a fortnight ago and a timetable for the first phase of the project has now been outlined.

Starting at Leith Ocean Terminal, initial work will involve moving utility pipes and cables.

Work starts in Leith Walk next month and Princes Street after the festival.

Project bosses conceded there would be traffic disruption at congested areas including Princes Street junction, the Mound and Haymarket.

But they are confident that for the rest of the city it will be business as usual, with work restricted to 200 metre stretches and at no more than seven sites at a time.

I think it would be wrong, and I don't think people would believe us, if we said there would be no disruption
Willie Gallagher
Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (Tie)

One firm, Alfred McAlpine, has been brought in to carry out the 60m preparatory work to minimise public disruption.

Willie Gallagher, chairman of Tie, the council-owned company behind the project, acknowledged there would be problems on the city's roads while work is carried out.

He said: "I believe it is vitally important to be open and honest with people.

"I think it would be wrong, and I don't think people would believe us, if we said there would be no disruption.

"I think what is important is that we try and honour our commitments and that if we say we are going to be in and out within eight weeks, we are in and out within eight weeks.

"Or if we are not we can explain to people why not."

The scheme, which was given the go ahead last month, is scheduled to be completed by January 2011.

The first route to be built will be west to east, linking the capital's airport with the Firth of Forth shore.

'Tram helpers'

A second route is scheduled to go from Ocean Terminal in Leith to the city centre.

The executive originally said the project was not cost effective, but performed a U-turn after losing a crucial vote at Holyrood.

The utilities work is expected to take about 18 months, but Mr Gallagher is hopeful work on the line itself will start early next year.

The final cost of the project will not be known until the preferred bidders for the tram vehicles and line building are decided in the autumn.

An estimate 120,000 letters will be sent to residents living near to where the work is being carried out as part of a series of consultations.

Teams of "tram helpers" will also be on site to keep members of the public informed about noise and traffic disruption.

And a fund has been set up to offer financial support to businesses on the route who suffer while construction work is carried out.

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