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Value vow for Edinburgh tram

Edinburgh Tram project director Steven Bell this week pledged to deliver “best value for the public purse” despite ongoing contractual disputes and delays to the £545M project.

Bell told delegates at last week’s NCE Scottish Transport Engineering conference in Glasgow that while there were still a number of “serious commercial and contractual issues” to resolve his priority was to refocus on delivering the project.

“There are a lot of challenges and very well documented issues on the project that we are going to have to overcome if we are to achieve the cost and programme targets,” he explained.

He said that negotiations were ongoing between project sponsor Transport Innovations Edinburgh (TIE) and the contracting joint venture of Bilfinger Berger and Siemens (BBS) over costs and time extensions.

“The project is currently behind where it should be to achieve the production and programme outputs, he added.

“But I am going to deliver the best value for the public purse and for the City of Edinburgh and it is really important that that is where my focus is.”

“There are a lot of challenges and very well documented issues on the project that we are going to have to overcome.”

Steven Bell

Disputes between TIE and the BBS consortium have raged since the project kicked off in 2008. Problems have been caused largely by late running utility diversion works, which have prevented the main contractor gaining full access to the work site.

Bell said that although the contractor would be entitled to claim some extension of time at the end of the project, he wanted to play down recent press speculation that the project could finish two years late and £100M over budget. He also dismissed reports that TIE had threatened to charge BBS £1M a month in liquidated damages.

“As you know we have a number of contractual disputes,” he said. “The fact that these things are not resolved leads to lots of speculation in the press − there is a void to be filled by journalists, interested commentators and politicians.

“We are over the original budget which was £512M,” he added. “Negotiations are ongoing with the contractor but I am not going to have that discussion in public.”

The project has overall funding of up to £545M but Scottish transport minister Stewart Stevenson told parliament last month that the bill had now reached £533M. Bell said that TIE remained committed to the February 2012 opening date.

“There are some serious commercial and contractual issues − that’s a fact,” said Bell.

“But despite that, there is still a decent ongoing relationship. I am very optimistic for the project but we have to overcome these other challenges.”

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