Tram chiefs face grilling from MSPs over links to Waterfront
MSPs scrutinising Edinburgh's trams scheme will tomorrow demand reassurances that project chiefs will be able to deliver plans to serve the massive Waterfront development.
They are also set to grill council leader Donald Anderson and TIE chief executive Michael Howell over the costs and timescale of proposals for a phased introduction of the tram lines.
Transport Minister Tavish Scott will be asked to confirm the Scottish Executive's grant for the project will rise to cover inflation. And MSPs will seek to ensure residents living along the projected routes are not subjected to years of blight by sections of the project which may never be built.
Tomorrow's meeting of the Edinburgh Tram (Line One) Bill committee will be the first opportunity MSPs have had to quiz the key players in the scheme since the council decided to shelve huge sections of the proposals because of a funding crisis.
With a projected cost of up to 714 million, and a maximum of 535m in the pot, it had become impossible to complete the two proposed tram lines on schedule.
Now only one line from Leith to Edinburgh Airport will be built as a "first phase" by the end of the decade. And a spur from Haymarket to Granton will only be added if estimated costs can be brought under budget.
The seafront link between Leith and Granton, part of the original proposed loop, will not be built in the foreseeable future. But MSPs believe the tram scheme must serve the Waterfront.
A source close to the committee said: "It doesn't matter whether they go down from Haymarket or along from Leith, but they have to do one or the other.
"The Waterfront is going to be equivalent to the population of Perth - you can't build a development that size and not think through the public transport consequences. You can't expect that number of people to get around on the existing transport network."
The committee is expected to demand more clarity from the council, TIE and the minister on how the project will go forward.
The source said: "What the committee will want to know is are they intending to build the whole thing, and if so when? The Executive has to be clear whether it stacks up and whether it can index-link the grant.
"They [the committee] will be exploring funding, phasing the construction and how to avoid blight."
And the source said the MSPs would take a "robust" approach. "They [project chiefs] will expect to have done their homework and know what has happened elsewhere, what revenue they expect, what will be the cost of doing it in sections and how they are going to serve the Waterfront."
Waterfront Edinburgh, the joint venture company in charge of the development, which will include homes for 35,000 people, has warned the tram link is essential for the area's success.
The committee has highlighted concerns about residents along the route being blighted by the threat of compulsory purchase.
The Bill would currently give the authorities up to 15 years to build the tram lines. But it is understood the committee could consider cutting that to ten years to prevent an enduring blight for home owners. "This should not be left hanging over people if there is no intention to build," said the source.
"Some people will argue it has a positive impact on house prices if you're going to have a tram running past your door, others will say it is negative.
"But from a common sense point of view, if you are going to do something you should make up your mind and get on with it. An attitude of 'when we get round to it' is not helpful."
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Monday 20 May 2013
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