edinburgh trams : who got the cash

“Politicians should accept that they generally lack the appropriate expertise to fully understand the technical, financial and legal aspects of major projects”
Sarah B

“The fault lies with us, with our lack of industrial capacity, shortage of commercial nous and the paucity of engineering skills that once marked out Scotland as a nation”
George Rosie

The chaotic construction history and ignominious failure of the Edinburgh Tram Plan has now been revealed, since last weeks’ politicised Unionist vote to bring it all to a very premature halt at Haymarket was won. Won by the very same south-of-the-border parties who championed the Airport-Newhaven lines in the first place, under dubious political motives (they knew it was unaffordable and wanted to saddle the replacement SNP government with a build-it-they-must-by-law infrastructure project that would hobble any social spending…)

But aside from the appallingly childish (Kleptocracy would be a more appropriate term, some might say) Unionist/Independence politiking at Holyrood and the naivety of the district council, there’s something even more humiliating for Scotland, if that were possible – the dreadful shameful fact we couldn’t build it ourselves.

you’d never believe the scots were once famed for engineering :
who banked edinburgh’s 1/5th-built £800m tram budget

please note I’m not criticising the expertise these companies embody – see last weeks’ post on Halcrow’s London Underground works, which had been specifically written previously, to contrast with the expected tram news

tramway designers : Parsons Brinckerhoff*, New York + Halcrow, England
steel rails : Voestalpine, Austria
operational systems : Siemens and Bilfinger Berger, Germany
tramcars : Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, Spain
street + utilities preparation : Carillion, England

*PB now owned by UK’s Balfour Beatty

from George Rosie’s superb analysis of the debacle The Route To Nowhere

There is perhaps a silver lining to all this: the power cable towers – a visual abomination in a world heritage city, stupidly and thoughtlessly chosen because burying the power would have cost “zillions” despite contractors having to re-position every single cable beneath the road surface anyway – will now no longer pollute the view to the Castle from Princes Street. I was also going to add in a list of cities that have successfully managed to build a modern tram system, but I’m too numptied.

Fareweel to a’ our Scottish fame,
Fareweel our ancient glory!
Fareweel ev’n to the Scottish name.
Sae famed in martial story!
Now Sark rins over Salway sands,
An’ Tweed rins to the ocean,
To mark where England’s province stands -
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

Robert Burns

An article by respected longstanding trams blogger, Sarah B
Comparison – Access to the Region’s Core wiki entry

Finally, there is a purposely-hidden solution to all this tram nonsense – the blindingly-obvious Edinburgh Airport Rail Link to Waverley. Yes, it does exist, and it could have been instigated decades ago. But politics always comes before sensibility… like LRT Airport Shuttle fares, taxes on Hackneys and Parking Fines for those who rented a car in the face of being stuck out in the western showground sticks with no visible means of transport. Basically Tax Revenue for the council to spend on… ugly street furniture? £3,000 a day consultants to tell them chips are made from potatoes? Gold-plated pensions? (er, that last one’s a DEFINITE priority).

Bus graphic by Jamie Reid


Jeremy Balfour (Tory) : Lesley Hinds (Labour)
Jenny Dawe (LibDem) : Andrew Burns (Labour) : Steve Cardownie (SNP)

Oh – I nearly forgot – whereforeto The Right Honourable George Grubb, Lord Lieutenant and Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh? What ails our esteemed city leader? Can we not look to him for leadership, just when we need it? Hmmm? Shurely he’s got something constructive to contribute, being leader an’ all that? Maybe a few words on the evils of kleptocracy, perhaps?

Update from Lord Provost of Edinburgh 6 september 2011


At a special meeting of the City of Edinburgh Council today, Councillors decided to build the city’s tram line to St Andrew Square in the first instance.

This reversed a decision taken last week in which members voted for a truncated first phase to Haymarket.

The meeting involved further questions to Senior Council Officers from Elected Members, detailed progress made to implement the Haymarket decision and the merits of completing the tram route to St Andrew Square. The resulting vote ended with the SNP supporting the Liberal Democrat motion to build the tram line to the city centre.

City of Edinburgh Council Leader Jenny Dawe, expressed her satisfaction at the decision of Council. She said:

“Continuing with the tram route to St Andrew Square was the only sensible option for Edinburgh. I look forward to seeing a new work programme which enables our tramline to be built and operational as quickly as possible. I am delighted that we have managed to deliver additional funds for the businesses affected. I am also grateful for the substantial effort that Council officers, and indeed the members of the Infrastructure Consortium, have gone to in enabling us to take today’s decision.”

This decision now authorises the Council’s Chief Executive, Sue Bruce, to negotiate the settlement agreement with contractors with the aim of delivering the tram route to the city centre as the first phase of the tram line.

Following the Council meeting, Sue Bruce said: “As Council officers we have a duty to implement decisions made by Elected Members. Over the course of the last week it became clear that there were material issues which would make delivering the line to Haymarket as a first phase difficult and this was considered by Elected Members today.

“Today’s decision enables us to report back to the contractor that we have confirmation of the Council’s funding for the project and we can work towards a settlement agreement and a revised programme of works.

“We will communicate publicly when this has been achieved.”

In addition to the recommendation to complete the tram route to St Andrew Square, the Council has also approved the revised Open for Business Scheme which has been given an increased budget to provide support for businesses affected by the on-street section of works over the next two years.

The Rt Hon George Grubb
Lord Provost