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Year in cold storage puts £40m leasing plan in doubt

HOPES that Edinburgh’s surplus tram vehicles can be leased to another city have been dealt a blow after doubts were raised about their condition due to being left in “cold storage” in Spain for more than a year.

Council officials had planned to raise £40 million over the next 30 years by leasing up to 10 tram vehicles that are no longer needed after the 11.5-mile route between the airport and Newhaven had been cut short.

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But John Carson, a former maintenance director at Network Rail, said having the trams in cold storage probably invalidates the warranty on them.

He said: “Manufacturers insist that trams run for a trial period to make sure they run properly. You can imagine the reservations about taking them on when that hasn’t happened.”

Mr Carson also claimed that, at nearly 48 yards long and weighting 57 tonnes, the trams were the “heaviest and longest” in the world, which made adapting them for use on other systems technically difficult.

The decision on Thursday to curtail the route even further by terminating at Haymarket, west of the city centre, will leave the council with even more trams which are surplus to requirements, a tram project spokesman conceded yesterday.

But he said it was too soon to how many of the fleet of 27 vehicles will still be needed.

A bid to lease 10 of the £2 million trams to Croydon was knocked back earlier this year and a report prepared for Thursday’s council meeting recommended looking at other tram systems in the UK and mainland Europe to assess whether a demand would be created as they expanded and replaced their tram fleets.

However, Transport for London, which operate Croydon’s tram network, has told The Herald that Edinburgh’s bid was “technically problematic” due to the fact that 26 of the tram vehicles had been left in bits in Spain after being built by Spanish manufacturer CAF.

The report to council on Thursday outlined separate difficulties in leasing the surplus tram vehicles.

Funding to procure four second-hand tram vehicles for the Abbey Line between Watford and St Albans and four new trams for the Sheffield Supertram system were both “uncertain”, the report noted.

Council officials had also looked at Turkey, where there had been “a number of developments” with light rail systems, though the report concluded that the “opportunities are unknown at present”.

Oslo had identified a need for a temporary replacement for its tram fleet but the infrastructure was “not well suited” to the Edinburgh tram fleet.

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