Probe into Holyrood role in Edinburgh trams farce

Lord Hardie heads the inquiry into Edinburgh's delayed and over'budget trams project. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Lord Hardie heads the inquiry into Edinburgh's delayed and over'budget trams project. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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THE inquiry into Edinburgh’s delayed and over-budget tram line is investigating the role played by Scottish Government agency Transport Scotland, it was confirmed yesterday.

Lord Hardie, the former Lord Advocate chairing the inquiry, highlighted the role of the transport body in a list of 65 “areas of interest” as the probe launched a public call for evidence.

Members of the public can now submit their own evidence via the inquiry website.

Appealing for members of the public to tell the inquiry how the £776 million debacle affected them, Lord Hardie said: “The Edinburgh tram inquiry must base its findings on direct evidence from those affected by the planning and construction phase of the Edinburgh trams project.

“Whether a local resident, business, developer or other interested party, this is the public’s opportunity to offer views on the direction of the inquiry and to provide evidence for consideration.”

He added: “I promised at the appropriate time that I would make a formal call for evidence.

“I’m fulfilling that promise, but I’m going further, because I’m publishing the list of issues that we are actively involved in investigating. As far as I’m aware, that’s unprecedented.

“A public inquiry wouldn’t go into what it was doing day to day, but the purpose of publishing that is to help the public, so that they can look at the issues, and if they think, ‘He’s forgotten this, or they’ve overlooked that’, it’s their chance to tell me, this is another issue I should look at.

“I along with the team will look at all these representations and decide if there should be additional issues considered. We’re not infallible.”

Transport Scotland pulled out of the tram project board in 2007 despite £500m of public money being tied up in the scheme, before contractual disputes with engineering firms and cost overruns blighted its construction.

The tram eventually began operation just under a year ago, £375m over budget and almost ten miles short of the network originally planned.

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone said: “The trams debacle has given residents and visitors to Edinburgh much to complain about and the inquiry into what went wrong must be thorough and produce results.

“It would be wrong for the scope of the inquiry to be limited to local government. For this reason it is welcome news that Transport Scotland’s role in the situation will be investigated to find out who must take responsibility.”

A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “We would certainly be surprised if the inquiry wasn’t speaking to us and looking at our role and the rationale for some of the decisions which were taken.

“In fact, we have already provided all of the relevant documents in our possession to the inquiry, and will continue to offer assistance as and when 
requested.”