Edinburgh trams: Services 'will be running by next May'
Edinburgh's trams will be running by May 2014, the city council has announced.
The council also said that, after six years of construction, the capital's streets would be clear of roadworks by 19 October.
Tram testing between the airport and Edinburgh Park will begin earlier in the month.
Test trams will be running along the entire route to the city centre by December.
Edinburgh City Council's transport convener Lesley Hinds welcomed the new end date for the project, but added: "I'm very keen for it to be finished even earlier if possible.
End Quote Lesley Hinds Edinburgh City Council
Within weeks the city centre will be clear of tram works for the first time in six years ”
"I've asked that all of these timeframes are reassessed at the beginning of next year so that any further gains in progress can be factored into our plans."
The tram project has cost £776m - millions over the original budget - and is years behind schedule.
However, the May date is two months ahead of the council's most recent forecast for completion of the project.
Tram testing from the airport to Edinburgh Park Station will begin on 6 October, with testing from the airport to York Place beginning on 9 December.
Haymarket (Dalry Road to Manor Place) is set to reopen to traffic around 12 October and Shandwick Place crescents to open around 19 October.
Ms Hinds said: "Within weeks the city centre will be clear of tram works for the first time in six years - the end of the tram project and the beginning of a tram service are clearly in sight.
"Our target for launch is now May 2014 but we'll bring this forward if we can and we'll announce a start date for the tram service when we're 100% sure."'Misleading speculation'
But she added: "There's a major testing, commissioning and driver training programme to be done, work to be done on tram stops and, of course, a Scottish winter to get through.
"As we near the completion of the project, we are now approaching a time of real opportunity for our city.
Edinburgh trams timetable
- 6 October - Tram testing begins
- 19 October - Streets clear of construction work
- 9 December - Entire route testing
- May 2014 - Trams begin running
"There has been major investment in infrastructure and now we want to see transport options fully integrated as part of a system that will benefit residents and visitors while ensuring that Edinburgh is well positioned in the eyes of potential investors who can bring new jobs to our city."
Transport Minister Keith Brown said: "The announcement that the infrastructure works will be completed and handed over to the council by next March will ensure they are in a position to have trams running ahead of the revised July 2014 delivery date.
"We will continue to work with the council and the contractor to look at opportunities to bring the programme forward even further where at all possible.
"This is good news for people and business in Edinburgh and we are all looking forward to a city centre free of road works and major disruption ahead of the busy Christmas period."
He added: "It puts an end to the misleading speculation over recent weeks about when the tram project would be finished and provides much needed clarity to businesses to plan ahead with confidence."Awareness campaign
Gordon Dewar, Edinburgh Airport's chief executive, said: "This is fantastic news. Trams will offer those arriving in Edinburgh an efficient, consistent and modern way to access the capital."
Over the testing period there will be more than 150 tram journeys per day, five days a week.
The tram route to Edinburgh park crosses South Gyle Broadway and the council will be working with Edinburgh Trams to ensure that businesses, residents and commuters are kept informed.
Ahead of December, a city-wide safety and awareness campaign will be launched as trams will be running through the city centre.
The council said that although completion of the track and road works between Haymarket and Shandwick Place would mean the vast majority of tram infrastructure was in place, localised planned works may occasionally impact on traffic flows until the beginning of the tram's testing and commissioning phase.
Last month the council set out plans to create a new organisation, Transport for Edinburgh, to integrate transport services in the city.