Posted 2nd September 2011 | 5 Comments

U-turn Edinburgh councillors rescue Princes Street trams

COUNCILLORS in Edinburgh have voted to restore the future tram route between Haymarket and St Andrew Square, which was voted out last week.

A crisis meeting heard today that the financial implications of terminating the line at Haymarket were growing more dire, with the threat of major penalties payable to the contractors as well as the loss of £72 million in government funding.

The special meeting, convened by the Lord Provost, voted to reverse last week's decision to abandon the Princes Street section, where lines were laid during a period of disruption which lasted through most of 2009.

The decision to end the line at Haymarket had been met with dismay by the city's Chamber of Commerce, whose chief executive described it as 'bonkers'.

The report considered by councillors said: "The option to complete the project to St Andrew Square is believed to yield the best prospect of a return on investment relative to the original aims of the project and to deliver best value for the city, the council and the Edinburgh Tram Project."

Today's meeting was told that around £60 million of funding from the Scottish Government, the remaining tranche of a grant worth £500 million, would not be paid to the council if it terminated the line from the airport at Haymarket.

Worse still, pulling out of Princes Street would have triggered penalty payments to the contractors of £161 million. It would also require yet more funding to restore Princes Street to its former state and provide a new, unplanned turnback for trams at Haymarket.

Today saw a change of heart by SNP councillors, who had abstained from last week's vote, thus allowing Conservative and Labour councillors to outvote the pro-tram Liberal Democrats. Today, both Labour and SNP members voted with the LibDems to continue the trams to St Andrew Square.

Council leader Jenny Dawe said a public inquiry now lay ahead, with the original financial case and costing of the tram project being scrutinised to see whether there had been wilful misinformation, negligence or simply mistakes.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • John Gilbert, Cradley, Herefordshire, England

    The mind simply boggles at the situation in Edinburgh. What the HELL has been going on!!! Are they all idiots? The French have just opened their 25th NEW tramway in the past 20 years! Obviously the whole Edinburgh project should have been handed over to them!
    Now the poor people of the Scottish capital city doubtless think that trams are a bad thing. And who can blame them! But no, the concept is fine - just ask the citoyens of those 25 French cities; it's the people who have been running this whole sad Edinburgh business who should be put in the dock!

  • Steve Alston, Crewe

    The real villain is the contractor. But that gets missed by the media.

  • John Gilbert, Cradley, Herefordshire, England

    The French have installed twenty-five new tram systems in their major - and not-so-major - cities in the last twenty or so years and the process is continuing. We know why English cities have such trouble getting approval for these systems - because of the gormless, unambitious and lacking-in-drive Westminster politicians and civil servants who know the cost of everything but not the value; I had hoped that Scotland and Edinburgh would be a breath of common sense and fresh air in these islands. But instead............. In due course the book will have to be written, "How NOT to build a Tram System." Does no one have any drive any more? For goodness' sake get the French in to do the job - which should have been done at the outset!

  • Tony Pearce, Reading, UK

    Shambles, shambles, shambles.

    I have retired now as a Senior Analyst for a major International firm.

    Schemes like this were costed to the last penny. There were regular reviews. All contracts with outsiders were written in blood. If they got their sums wrong then they had to pay with no compensation.

    If things started going wrong (eg date slippages) then you didn't get your bonus and going to the boardroom to explain was not an easy matter.

    These problems should not be happening in Edinburgh.

    The only good thing that could come out of this is that everyone in the Railway Industry should now note everything about this scheme ('How not to run a Railway Project') and make sure it never happens on anything they are involved in.

  • Linda Wood, Edinburgh

    What a terrible waste of money,we have an excellent bus service, there is absolutely no need for trams.