MacKay off the rails on tram extension

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Sir Donald MacKay’s ­article about the Edinburgh trams (“Drive to the end of the line”, Perspective, ­24 September) is, unfortunately, as full of holes as the construction of the tramline itself and contains some sweeping observations that simply do not withstand ­scrutiny.

The assertion that the tramline to Leith could be built timeously for £100 million is an example.

Where did this figure come from and what evidence exists that the detrimental service diversions that hampered the current project are completed to the required standard there?

Like most supporters of the Edinburgh trams, Sir Donald resorts to unattributed quotes from Dublin Metro sources but fails to mention that the “horlicks” of Edinburgh tramline construction has left a lasting deficit of more than £30m a year for the next 30 years whereas Dublin, being overwhelmingly funded by the European Union, has no such hangover.

The statement that “the trams have proved very costly and tardy, but that can hardly be laid at the door of the ­Scottish Government”, ­directly contradicts his later suggestion that the City of ­Edinburgh Council should “ask the Scottish Government for some financial support which should only be delivered if the work is carried out within budget and on time (by 2016-19)”.

However, these are the exact conditions the Scottish Government imposed on the existing project, where payments were supposed to be linked to progress, but which saw the squandering of the £500m grant without corresponding checks on progress.

This matter alone merits a public inquiry into the incompetent actions of all involved.

The reference to the increase in business rates is naive as Sir Donald should more appropriately be asking why the Scottish Government has to increase them.

The answer: it must balance the books, not squander yet more public finance on tram extensions.

The biggest issue now is one of trust and whether the people of Edinburgh support a tram extension. This could easily be tested as a referendum issue in the 2016 local elections.

John RT Carson

South Queensferry

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