AFTER four weeks, 14 days of sittings at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds, the public inquiry into Line One of Merseytram has now run its course.
It will reconvene for two days only next week to hear any outstanding objections (there are unlikely to be any) and a detailed summing-up from Merseytravel QC Charles George.
The passenger transport authority has employed three teams of lawyers and two QCs (David Manley the other) to help it steer a safe path through the potentially hazardous waters of the inquiry.
So did they manage it? The inquiry began with a total of 272 objectors to the 12-mile Line One, which runs from Kirkby to Liverpool and ends in two loops around the centre of Liverpool and the waterfront.
Perhaps the two most significant objectors who did appear were bus operator Glenvale and former John Moores University professor and transport expert Lewis Lesley.
Glenvale chief executive Dominic Brady, who employs more than 860 drivers and staff, warned inspector Chris Tipping a large number of bus drivers could lose their jobs if Merseytram goes ahead.
He would have to make a significant cut in his workforce if people switched from buses to trams.
Mr Lesley, who runs a company which aims to make sure public transport is improved, has been a longstanding supporter of light rail schemes but believes Merseytravel's proposals are flawed.
Unusually, it was Merseytravel chief executive Neil Scales himself, rather than his expert witnesses, who was the chief defender of the £230m Line One proposals against the objectors.
He faced cross examination a total of five times, including for a number of hours with Glenvale QC Jonathan Crystal.
The most significant action probably took place well away from the Foresight Centre hearings themselves.
In the background, Merseytravel was trying to reach a deal with Liverpool City Council, which remained potentially the most damaging objector to the trams.
The council was concerned the cost of Line One would rise and local authorities would be forced to meet the bill.
It also wanted to ensure the building and operation of the trams did not disrupt Liverpool's 800th birthday celebrations in 2007 and Capital of Culture year in 2008.
Talks had been ongoing for weeks but reached new levels of intensity during the first two weeks of the inquiry.
The council set a deadline of 5pm on Wednesday, May 5 or their objection would stand.
On April 30, lawyers from both sides talked until 6.30am at Liverpool's Marriott Hotel. Agreement was tantalisingly out of reach.
Deadline day of May 5 arrived with an agreement still not reached. Merseytravel was furious the council had tried to insert a late clause saying it would not be legally bound by any agreement.
Neither side seemed ready to blink.
Talks resumed at 10am at the city centre offices of lawyers DLA.
But Liverpool's chief executive, David Henshaw, and Mr Scales were speaking on the phone as early as 7.30am.
Mr Scales gave his instructions to his legal team: "Do a deal but not at any cost."
So who was holding the cards? The council knew that opposition from the Town Hall to the trams at the inquiry could be potentially very damaging to Merseytravel's case.
But equally Merseytravel knew that if Liverpool City Council was seen to block the project - and send £170m of government investment back to London - the people of Merseyside might not forgive them.
By 5.30pm, council sources indicated a deal would be done by 8pm but Merseytravel insisted nothing had been signed. By 10pm, both finally seemed in agreement.
The Daily Post on the morning of May 6 reported the crucial deal had been done. We were right, just.
The talks had been hard and at times bitter. Some antagonism remains but common sense finally prevailed.
Now it will be up to Inspector Chris Tipping to decide whether Merseytravel has successfully made the case for Merseytram to go ahead. He will report to the Government, probably around mid-August, with Whitehall making the final decision before Christmas.