Princes St tram tracks spark £12m row

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A NEW £12 million battle is set to break out between tram bosses and their contractors over the bill to lay tracks on Princes Street.

&#149 The construction consortium says TIE owes it 3m for work to lay tracks along Princes Street.

The construction consortium charged with building the project has launched a fresh round of legal action in a bid to recover the money it claims it is owed for the work in 2009.

The dispute is just the latest in a series of rows over cost which have dogged the project and comes ahead of last-ditch peace talks aimed at salvaging the entire project scheduled for March.

In papers seen by the Evening News, solicitors acting on behalf of BSC say the consortium is looking for 12.3m - around 3m more than the sum already handed over by tram firm TIE.

The contractor BSC, which includes Bilfinger Berger, Siemens and tram vehicle manufacturer CAF, is now set to take the dispute to an adjudicator to decide.

Work to lay tracks on Princes Street had originally been due to cost just 2m, but last year tram bosses admitted the cost had risen to 8m and hinted it could rise yet further.

There has also been criticism of the quality of work carried out on Princes Street, with a series of patch-up jobs carried out last year after the road surface began to crumble under heavy traffic.

Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie said: "The public purse has to be defended as much as possible. (12.3m] seems a high price to pay for a couple of sets of tracks going from nowhere to nowhere, which also appear to be of a poor standard."

John Carson, a former director of maintenance at Network Rail and long-standing opponent of the project, said: "It's a shambles and is only going to continue to break up. The whole thing is an absolute eyesore and starting to resemble a patchwork quilt."

The paperwork obtained by the Evening News also notes that work on Princes Street was not completed by November 2009, despite TIE's "insistence" that the street be reopened to the public in time for Christmas.

Contractors were forced to return in January last year to complete the work but no longer had "exclusive access" as traffic had returned.

Should the dispute over Princes Street go to adjudication, it will be the latest disagreement between the two sides settled in that way.

According to sources close to the consortium, the majority already decided have gone in its favour, but it is understood a number remain in the pipeline.

Commenting on the adjudication talks, a spokesman for the tram project said: "As we have made clear already, moving forward into mediation, it is more important than ever that we adhere to a strict principle of confidentiality towards the dispute and adjudications in order for us to obtain the best resolution possible for the city.

"It is, however, incredibly disappointing that sensitive information of this nature has made its way into the public domain at this point in negotiations."