PLANS to bring trams back to the streets of Edinburgh were unveiled at a public meeting last night.

The #30m scheme proposes a four-mile route from Haymarket station down Princes Street and Leith Walk to Newhaven pier.

The idea was mooted five years ago, but this week it cleared a major hurdle with the announcement of a #55,000 feasibility study jointly funded by Edinburgh City Council, Lothian and Edinburgh Enterprise Limited and the New Edinburgh Tramways Company (NET).

NET chief executive Graeme Bettison, said it hoped the system would be up and running in 2001, subject to approval from the council and a Parliamentary order which is required for tramways.

''We are confident that we will be able to convince the council that our scheme could be implemented without risk to its public responsibilities,'' he said

''The City of Edinburgh is getting a totally commercial project at no cost to council tax payers.''

The project is based on a new lightweight tram keeping construction costs to a third of a conventional system. Prototypes are being tested in Blackpool and the company says negotiations are in an advanced stage to sell trams to operators in Amsterdam and Philadelphia.

The lightweight tram is the brainchild of NET chairman Professor Lewis Lesley, of Liverpool's John Moores University.

The project envisages a fleet of ten 200 seater single-deck tramcars split into carriages and running on power from overhead lines and on new rails on existing Greenways bus routes.

Edinburgh's transport convener Councillor Mark Lazarowicz said: ''We think the scheme is certainly worthy of further investigation, which is why we have called in consultants to look at it.''