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Trams chief urges political courage

A lack of “political courage” could prevent large-scale infrastructure projects going ahead in the future in Scotland, a leading project manager has said.

Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (TIE) chief executive Richard Jeffrey said MSPs should not be “frightened” to push forward long-term infrastructure problems for fear of what their peers might say.

The remarks are particularly timely considering the £50M overrun that has struck the Edinburgh Tram project, which is currently being overseen by TIE as a dispute continues with one of the project’s main contractors, Bilfinger Berger.

The dispute has angered some MSPs in the city, but Jeffrey said such projects were at risk of becoming “politically untouchable” and exempt from public pressure and political support.

Jeffrey told BBC Scotland: “It’s always easier for people to oppose things than to propose things.

“Proposing and supporting these major long-term infrastructure projects does take political courage. This mentality of opposing things might be politically expedient, but actually it leaves us as a society with a decaying infrastructure and no investment for the future.”

The Scottish Government had opposed the scheme, but lost a vote in Parliament on the issue as opposition parties joined forces to back the project.

Readers' comments (7)

  • I have previously asked the following question several times but have yet to receive any response.

    What are the advantages of a tram system with its very expensive infrastructure over a much cheaper modern trolley bus system?

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  • Please will someone at Tie please answer Alan Marco's question? I think this is unlikely we get an answer since there is no rational behind the decision to have trams.
    The only reason I have ever heard mooted is that trams are "Green" because they run on electricity. But trolley buses also run on electricity.

    Whats the reason Tie?

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  • Thank you Mr Bowie. I thought I was alone in my ignorance of the benefits of a tram syatem.
    I note that we are still waiting to be enlightened!

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  • I am not a tram expert, and have nothing to do with TIE, but would have thought the benefits of trams over trolleybuses were pretty obvious:
    1. They provide a far better ride than buses
    2. They can operate in multiple, thus providing double or three times the capacity of buses
    3. They have about a fifth of the rolling resistance and hence are more energy efficient
    4. They only need a single overhead wire as the return current goes through the rails, hence the wiring is less obtrusive and much easier at junctions.

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  • Many thanks Mr Lewis

    With much respect I think that some one with intimate knowledge of the systems and costs should respond. They seem to be as rare as hens teeth

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  • Mr Marco
    Was there something about Rob's response you disagree with on a technical level? It seemed reasonably informed to me.
    Or have you chosen to dismiss his response purely because it wasn't what you wanted to hear?

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  • Mr Honeyman
    Please be assured that I was not dismissing Mr Lewis's reply. While the comments he makes I assume to be true, what was lacking were the actual numbers. For example a tram may well be more efficient than a trolley bus but what is the pay-back period for the extra infrastructure not only in £s but for the extra carbon footprint and for traffic disruption during construction.

    I have no particular axe to grind I am merely curious.
    I again ask where is the response from the people who do have a vested interest since they must have the numbers to hand.

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