Edinburgh trams inquiry yet to call key witnesses

The tram system was completed in 2014, years late and massively over budget. File picture: Lesley Martin

The tram system was completed in 2014, years late and massively over budget. File picture: Lesley Martin

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A HOST of key players who presided over Edinburgh’s trams have yet to be called as witnesses to an inquiry into the project, the News can reveal.

Former council chiefs, including then-leader Jenny Dawe and ex-transport convenor Gordon Mackenzie, confirmed they had not heard a “single word”, despite the public probe having run for almost two years.

Ms Dawe, who took over as council leader in 2007 before losing her seat in 2012 amid public fury over the stalled tram works, admitted she was “somewhat surprised”.

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She said: “I have not heard a single word. Absolutely nothing. I have no idea who has actually been asked to comment. It does seem to be taking an inordinate amount of time – and the longer it takes the more difficult it will be for people to remember.

“I would have thought they might have wanted to find out what I knew or what I did not know. All I know about it is what I have read in the papers.”

The city’s beleaguered £776 million tram system was finally completed in 2014, five years late and massively over budget.

Earlier this year it was revealed the wide-ranging inquiry into what went wrong – which is being chaired by retired judge Lord Hardie – had already cost more than £2m.

Bosses said they had been taking “informal” witness statements since the start of the probe, but could not confirm how many had been taken so far – or how many were still to go.

Mr Mackenzie, who sat on the board of tram firm Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (TIE), also confirmed he had yet to be contacted.

Meanwhile, current city leader Andrew Burns, who was transport leader for five years until August 2006, told the News he too had yet to be approached.

But he stressed the council – named as a core participant in the inquiry at a preliminary hearing in October last year – was “committed to playing our full part in the proceedings”.

Another former council chief, Donald Anderson, who led the city from 1999 to 2006 when the tram plans were being drawn up, also confirmed he had heard nothing.

Several key figures are understood to be frustrated with the slow-moving process. One even insisted they had been tempted to get in touch with the inquiry themselves – thinking their summons had been lost in the post.

Inquiry bosses said the next public hearing would only occur when the majority of witness statements had been taken.

A spokeswoman for the tram inquiry said: “We can confirm we are in the process of taking extensive statements from witnesses of interest. These will be published on our website in due course and will form part of the evidence of the 
inquiry.

“We are dealing with a significant number of witnesses as part of this thorough and methodical process. At this stage not all witnesses have been contacted.”

alistair.grant@jpress.co.uk

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