City transport bosses ready to ask Holyrood for trams bail-out cash

TRANSPORT bosses may be forced to go back to the Scottish Government in a last-ditch bid to secure extra funds for the Capital's tram project, the city's transport convener has admitted.

Councillor Phil Wheeler said the city council would look at approaching ministers for cash for the doomed line 1b between Roseburn and Granton.

Plans for the 87 million spur line are expected to be dropped, with the tram project now facing a mounting cash crisis.

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But Cllr Wheeler said the city council would consider approaching Holyrood once more, despite Finance Secretary John Swinney repeatedly warning that there will be "not a penny more" for the project.

Speaking as the first set of tram tracks were delivered to Leith yesterday, Cllr Wheeler said: "I'm determined that on my watch, we will deliver what we said we would. I'm delighted to see the rails arrive, and they are evidence that this is a serious project and that we are able to deliver."

Asked if the council would consider approaching the Scottish Government for funds for line 1b, he said: "Yes, but whether they have any cash for it is another matter. Who knows what the state of the economy will be like in a few years? There could be a big appetite for public works. The tram scheme is on its way and just needs money to finish it off."

Earlier this year, Mr Swinney apologised to an SNP conference for having to use Government cash to pay for the trams.

A Scottish Government spokesman today said its position on funding had not changed.

He said: "We've made it clear we will make available up to 500m for Edinburgh's trams. Development and funding of further tram lines is entirely a matter for the city council and Transport Initiatives Edinburgh."

Work on laying the tracks for line 1a, due to run from Newhaven to Edinburgh Airport, is expected to begin early next year.

Yesterday saw the first delivery of the tracks, which are being supplied by Austrian firm VAE.

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Sources close to the tram project have told the Evening News that the slowing economy has now made line 1b a "non starter".

However, the city council insists that no final decision has been made on whether to go ahead with the project. It has so far banked just 3m of the 25m it planned to raise from developers' contributions for line 1a.