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Edinburgh tram project revised again

Edinburgh Councillors last week voted to overturn a decision to terminate the city’s much maligned tram before it reached the city centre.

Loan for £231M shortfall

The council will now have to take out a loan to cover the scheme’s £231M shortfall.

The City of Edinburgh Council will borrow to fund construction of the line as far as St Andrew Square. It had previously planned to truncate the line at Haymarket on cost grounds.

The line was originally due to run from Edinburgh Airport through the city centre − including Haymarket and St Andrew Square and then east to the old port of Newhaven. The original cost for the full scheme was £545M, with £500M provided Transport Scotland and £45M by Edinburgh City Council. The £231M will only pay for the line to run as far as St Andrew Square.

Friday’s vote in a meeting convened by Lord Provost George Grubb follows months of indecision as councillors’ grappled with the escalating cost of the project amid disputes between Transport Initiative Edinburgh (Tie) − the council client set up to deliver the project − and the contractors Bilfinger Berger and Siemens.

“Bordering on the unmanageable”

The project started on site in 2007 but complications with utilities works triggered a dispute between contractors and client. Tie is being wound down and cost consultant Turner & Townsend has taken over the scheme.

Engineers said the project should have been handled better from the start. “Costs have spiralled and if Transport Scotland had handled this from the beginning, I don’t think we would be in this position,” said Civil Engineering Contractors Association Scotland chief executive Alan Watt.

“The project is bordering on the unmanageable.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • The Edinburgh Tram scheme has almost become a tragedy. It has helped to make the general public even more sceptical about engineers' estimates of cost than they are already. We need to remember that well-managed projects make no headlines, but badly managed ones are never out of them. Any ICE member involved in this sort of thing and aware of flaws should have a moral duty to express their doubts early and loudly (with ICE backing). There really must be an independent inquiry, with published findings, so that everyone can learn the lessons. I don't doubt that the Edinburgh tram will be a great success once it is operational, but what a painful and counterproductive process it has been so far!

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