Mistakes were made, admits new Edinburgh tram chief
SENIOR council officials have admitted for the first time that a public inquiry will have to be held into the handling of Edinburgh's troubled tram project.
Dave Anderson, the director who currently has responsibility for the project, has conceded "mistakes" were made by the City of Edinburgh Council and its tram company in the early days of the project.
And he revealed key decision-makers would almost certainly be called to appear at the public inquiry to explain their actions.
His intervention has come in the wake of revelations that the first phase of the tram is now only likely to run between Edinburgh Airport and the city centre. The council is still facing a funding gap of almost 100 million to try to get trams running.
Anderson, director of city development in the capital, said there had been errors made in the handling of the project and that the contract for building the tram work should not have been agreed before the design stage had been finished.
The surprise admission is the first hint from the council that the contract agreed with a German-led consortium two years ago was badly flawed. Anderson was not at the council at the time.
The local authority is facing the prospect of a costly court action if it decides to terminate the contract led by one of the world's largest construction giants, Bilfinger Berger.
The two sides have been at loggerheads for 18 months, with no sign of an end in sight to the dispute, which centres around claims that the cost of building the first phase is much more than was anticipated when a 220m deal was signed.
Critics claim the business case for the tram was put together in an "unseemly" rush to get it approved by the Scottish Parliament in the early days of the SNP administration and that the contract was not examined closely enough by the council and its tram firm, Tie, before it was signed off.
Councillors have been urged not to speculate about the handling of the tram project while officials at Tie, which is now led by former Edinburgh Airport managing director Richard Jeffrey, is trying to resolve the dispute.
Anderson gave a staunch defence of the case for the tram project because of projections about how the capital was due to grow over the next few years.
"Edinburgh's population is projected to grow from around 440,000 to 523,000 by 2025 and the number of passengers using Edinburgh Airport is due to rise from nine million at the moment to 13.7 million by 2018," he said.
"But in relation to the project itself, there have been mistakes made in the way the scheme has been managed. The design work was not completed before the contract was signed.
"There will have to be a public inquiry and people will be asked to account for actions that were taken and decisions that were made."But it's important that we don't lose our nerve while the dispute is ongoing."
Finance secretary John Swinney again insisted yesterday that no extra funding would be found to bail out the project, saying he did not believe the scheme was a "sensible use of public money".
"It's costing 500m, there's a lot of houses we could have built for 500m, a lot of schools, a lot of transport connections," he said.
The SNP had pledged to scrap the tram scheme if it won power at Holyrood, but Alex Salmond's minority administration was forced to concede defeat just weeks after being voted in.
Steve Cardownie, the Scottish Nationalist deputy leader of Edinburgh city council, which is run by an SNP-Liberal Democrat coalition, said: "There's been a lot of talk with the council recently about a public inquiry.
"At some point we are going to have to find out who did what and when it happened and where."
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Monday 20 May 2013
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