Hawaii tram plan to learn from Edinburgh fiasco

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IT'S fair to say the tram project has been making headlines here for quite some time.

But news of its mounting difficulties has now reached further afield.

Opponents of a light rail scheme in Hawaii have used Edinburgh's tram fiasco as an example of what not to do amid fears their own project is set to go over budget and way behind schedule.

In an article in a Hawaiian newspaper, local expert Panos Prevedouros said the problems in Edinburgh were an example of "what's in store" for Honolulu.

When comparing his city with Edinburgh and a tram project in Puerto Rico, Mr Prevedouros, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Hawaii, said: "Honolulu is clearly no different - subservient professionals offer politicians what they want to hear, and clueless politicians believe all of it.

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"Poor planning and bad government guarantee a financial fiasco.

"Honolulu has all the components for a bad outcome."

Last week, First Minister Alex Salmond predicted Edinburgh's tram project would come to "nothing at all," despite 500 million worth of Scottish Government funding.

The controversial project, which was meant to be up and running by now, has been mired in a bitter dispute between the council and contractors.

Work has virtually halted and official figures show 72 per cent of the construction work remains to be done, with just 38 per cent of the budget left.

Reports from Hawaii claim the same consultants who drew up the business case for Edinburgh's trams were also used in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where it is said the system was built at twice the original cost and five years late.

The Tren Urbano also failed to reach 50 per cent of its opening-year patronage forecast.

John Carson, a former head of maintenance at Network Rail and a long-standing critic of the trams, said: "A recent report on forecasting patronage on major rail/tram projects stated that figures predicted by transport consultants are invariably too optimistic and often wrong.

"Now we have completed projects the world over running into financial difficulty due to bad forecasting.

"If Edinburgh only builds part of the line, it too will suffer huge losses because of over-optimistic forecasts."

Mediation talks took place between the council's trams firm TIE and the consortium of contractors led by Bilfinger Berger last month.

A statement afterwards said there had been "constructive engagement" and the parties involved were "working together to firm up the framework for our future working arrangements and the successful delivery of the project".A spokesman for TIE said: "Modern trams bring many benefits for cities and Hawaiians should be encouraged to look at the success of so many schemes worldwide as an investment for the future."