We're still on track to finish Princes Street, say TIE chiefs
With less than four days to go before traffic returns to Princes Street, contractors are said to be working "around the clock" to make sure track-laying work is finished in time.
Tram firm TIE said it remained confident it would be able to hand the street back to the council on Saturday to allow for buses to return on Sunday morning.
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One leading industry expert claimed this meant tram bosses were attempting to "hoodwink" the public by backfilling holes on Princes Street to make the street look ready for the festive period.
TIE, however, insisted that while its contractors would return during the first week of January, it would be to carry out new work on the east end of the street. News of the work's progress came as city leader Jenny Dawe said she sensed a "turning point" in the public perception of the embattled project.
Councillor Dawe said: "We are quite content with the way the tram project is going and everyone is working flat out to get Princes Street open in time.
"Walking along Princes Street I hear a lot of comments about trams. Before, the comments used to all be negative, with people saying they don't want the tram, but now I tend to hear people telling others all about it and taking ownership of the tram, which is what we want.
"There seems to be quite a turning point in terms of public perception."
However, long-time tram critic John Carson, a former director of maintenance for Network Rail, was not convinced.
He said: "There's absolutely no way that Princes Street will not get dug up again when they come back from their Christmas break.
"There's not one metre of the line in the whole of Edinburgh that they can point to as finished."
Tram lines have already been laid along a large stretch of Princes Street, and the road surface has also been re-laid along much of the street.
Susan Clark, the deputy director of the tram project, said: "We have been working with our contractors around the clock to ensure that Princes Street is ready to re-open on Sunday.
"A tremendous amount of work has been undertaken to prepare the length of Princes Street in order to lay the tracks and to have it reopened in time for the festive activities as promised."
TIE said contractors would return to Princes Street in the first week of January.
Work will then get under way on the next phase of the project, which will involved the area between Waverley Bridge and South St Andrew Street.
Richard Walker, managing director of Bilfinger Berger Civil UK, added: "Our staff and contractors have worked round the clock, and overcome a range of complications to progress the Princes Street works in time for the festive season.
"We are extremely pleased with the progress that has been achieved."