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Axe could follow review of Edinburgh airport link


EDINBURGH AIRPORT Rail Link (EARL) was set to be struck from Scotland's infrastructure shopping list after auditor general Robert Black launched a fast-track review of the scheme this week.

The review was requested by the Scottish National Party, which formed a minority coalition government with the Greens following victory in last month's election.

During election campaigning the SNP vowed to scrap the £600M EARL, claiming that tunnelling under Edinburgh Airport runway would bump up the final cost of the scheme to more than £1bn (NCE 26 April).

The SNP has pledged to spend at least £300M on other transport infrastructure and killing off EARL would release cash for projects offering better value for money, a party spokesman said.

It also wants to cancel the Edinburgh Tram - its first phases from Leith to Ednburth Airport and Haymarket to Granton are scheduled for completion in 2010.

Auditor general Robert Black will report to finance minister John Swinney on the 'economy, efficiency and effectiveness' of both schemes by 20 June. Audit Scotland is carrying out a wider review of major capital projects and will report next spring.

But the EARL and Tram reviews are being fast-tracked so that members of the Scottish Parliament can consider findings before they break for the summer.

Black has been instructed not to revisit route options considered during development of the EARL project, or to verify the accuracy of cost estimates.

His review will focus on whether project management and contractual arrangements give confi dence that EARL can be delivered on time and to budget.

The audit has won support from the Conservatives. But Labour and Liberal Democrat MSPs this week complained that it is a political attack dressed up as a technical review.

'No evidence of cost overruns has been presented to parliament, ' said Liberal Democrat MSP Tavish Scott, who until last month was transport minister.

'This is a political decision and they are trying to justify it by using Audit Scotland.'

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