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Your report on the embarrassing shambles that the Edinburgh tram project has become quotes Civil Engineering Contractors Association Scotland director Alan Watt’s view that the project is “bordering on the unmanageable” (News last week).
Unfortunately it is difficult to envisage how Edinburgh City Council can extricate the project and itself from the hole it and they are now in without finding substantial additional funding.
The council appears to have consistently received dubious advice on which to base its decisions. It is understood that it was led to believe it was entering a “fixed price” contract. On that basis funding was established on what turns out to be an inflexible basis and has led to the present impasse on funding. To start a project of this nature without provision for substantial contingency costs was surely inadvisable even if the professional team believed the work had been designed to the last detail - which it clearly had not been.
During the course of the works the council’s delivery arm Tie made regular statements of confidence in the programme of works and the adequacy of the budget when experienced observers were aware more than two years ago that a simple extension of the expenditure S-curve was seriously out of line with achieved progress.
It was clear that the final cost was heading for £1bn or £1.5bn, during which time the council was being advised (certainly in public) that all was well on time and budget. The contractor’s success at adjudication hearings should have been the wake up call that the council’s position was not strong.
It remains unclear what will be the final cost for completion of considerably less than half the work which was promised under the “fixed price” contract. It is also unclear what the final cost will be for the truncated system.
The experience of the Scottish Parliament building is still fresh enough in people’s minds for the public perception of the construction industry to be at rock bottom in Scotland. It is to be hoped that the inevitable public enquiry into the trams will be more searching than the Parliament enquiry and present useful guidance to local authorities about how to avoid the pitfalls which the tram project has suffered and is continuing to experience.
l JM Grant (F) 10/5 St Margaret’s Place, Edinburgh EH9 1AY

Added benefits

The new Thames Hub plan is the best I’ve seen in NCE in a decade (NCE 11-18 August). It needs three additions.
First, à la A86 in Paris, an M86 outer ring motorway as an alternative and relief to the M25, with the tunnel under the Thames at Boris Airport and linking the existing dual carriageways at Maidstone, Crawley, Milford, Wokingham, Marlow and Hertford, Chelmsford etcetera.
Second, the High Speed 2 terminal to be at St Pancras as a far better interchange with HS1.
Third, Crossrail 2 linking St Pancras to Victoria.
There are costs here but if we can find the odd trillion for bank bailouts and quantitative easing we could find a few billion for the infrastructure the country so desperately needs. After all no real money would be spent for at least five years and the recession will be over by then, won’t it?
John Franklin (F),

Teach them
a lesson

Further to Paul Barnard’s letter (Letters last week) the best way to produce smaller families is increased education, especially of women, and to make people better off.
Failing any intention to achieve this, coercion and abandonment are left.
Michael Dommett, 119 Victoria Road, Alton,
GU34 2DD.

high speed 2

Before commenting on the letter from Stephen Tanno one would need to know where he lives. Most of those opposing the construction of High Speed 2 (HS2) either live adjacent to the route, which is understandable, or in London and the South East, which has one of the
best public transport systems
in the world.
Despite this, the latter group are quite happy to see billions
of pounds of taxpayers money spent on Crossrail, whose only purpose is to make commuters more comfortable and adds nothing to the economy of the country, yet grumble at a scheme which has economic benefits
and will lead to the reduction
of the carbon footprint with
the decrease in air travel.
There is civilised life north
of Watford Gap.
Donald Wroe, (F), Barnside Bouth, Ulverston LA12 8JB


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