The future of the Edinburgh Tram project remains in the balance following a City of Edinburgh Council meeting which has called for a confidential update on the project to be provided by December - almost two years after the dispute which has dogged the project began.
The council passed the motion calling for a new report on 14 October following a council report which outlined that the project may open in an initial stage from Edinburgh Airport to St Andrew Square in the city centre - instead of to Newhaven on the Forth waterfront as originally intended - due to “cost and programme difficulties”
The council’s arms length transport body, Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (TIE), and contractor Bilfinger Berger, have been in dispute over the project since February 2009, bringing work to a virtual standstill on the city’s streets. The report noted that there is “unlikely” to be a resolution to the dispute, which covers delays moving of the utility works to allow for the laying of the track and who pays for changes in the project, in the short term.
Bilfinger Berger has now confirmed it has laid off 36 staff working on the project as work has slowed as a result of the dispute. A source close to the consortium told NCE: “The consortium is deeply concerned by the lack of clear decision making from TIE in terms of taking the tram project forward.
“Progress on the negotiations is slow leading to the loss of extremely good staff and subcontractors. While the consortium remains fully committed to the project, decisions on how to take it forward clearly have to be taken by TIE.”
Edinburgh City Council is still preparing to borrow £55M to supplement its £45M contribution to the project’s planned £545M budget - taking it to £600M. The remaining £500M of the budget comes from the Scottish Government, and the Finance Secretary John Swinney has re-affirmed that this would not be increased. Speaking at the Scottish National Party conference in Perth, he said that there would be “not a penny more” for the project, “not even to rescue it”.