Trams to Newhaven consultants to receive £655,000 in contract extensions

Edinburgh City Council is set to grant contract extensions worth a total of £655,000 to consultants working on the trams extension project.

Workers on the Trams to Newhaven project
Workers on the Trams to Newhaven project

Councillors are being asked to approve the contract extensions for two consultancy firms working on the construction phase of the Trams to Newhaven extension project, which is due to be completed in 2023.

Surrey-based engineering and design company Atkins Limited is in line for a £600,000 contract extension, bringing the total worth of its contract with the council up to £1.795m, while Bristol-based JAB Services UK will receive a £55,000 increase to its existing contract, bringing the total worth to £105,000.

However, the contract extensions were already budgeted for by the council with ‘contingency’ funds, accommodated within the £207.3m budget for the tram extension project.

A report, sent to councillors ahead of a meeting of the finance committee on Thursday, reads: “It is still deemed to be in the best interests of the council to continue with the existing consultants who have been working on the project since the strategy stage, through the Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) stage and for the commencement of the construction phase.

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“This is because these consultants have significant knowledge and experience of the project, their continued appointment would maintain continuity of professional indemnity and also ensure the continuation of the positive relationships which have been built with the project board and connected council services as well as the project management team, infrastructure and systems contractor, swept path contractor and key stakeholders.

“The project budget approved by council of £207.3m, included assumptions for: the requirement of independent technical advice support to the Board throughout the construction phase; additional client design work required for changes at detailed design stage; and the technical review of detail design produced by the contractor.”

In November, it was revealed that Edinburgh City Council spent £14m on consultants during the most recent financial year.

The financial year before that, 2018/19, the council spent £10,414,499 on external consultants across its capital and revenue budgets, but during 2019/20 that figure skyrocketed to £14,371,427.

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The contract extension for Atkins Limited puts it amongst the biggest beneficiaries of the council’s consultancy spending.

Some of the big winners include American multinational firm Aecom, which received £1.8m from the council, Leeds-based project management company Turner & Townsend, which was paid £1.2m, and ‘Big Four’ accountancy firm Ernst & Young, which was paid £1.1m for its services.

Conservative member of the finance committee, and councillor for Fountainbridge and Craiglockhart, said: “'The SNP-Labour administration has made many bad decisions in recent years but borrowing huge amounts of money to forge ahead with the tram extension tops the lot.

“Now an extra six hundred thousand pounds is having to be found for consultancy, money that is badly needed elsewhere.

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“With tax-payers already fearing a large council tax increase this year, the decision to proceed with the extension looks worse by the day.”

The latest stage of the project got underway just before new year, with work on Ocean Drive.

The Covid pandemic forced a three-month halt to work in March, but excavation and utility clearance has now been completed on the Newhaven to Melrose Drive section, which has now been handed over to infrastructure and systems contractor SFN, who will undertake the main tram infrastructure works including the Lindsay Road retaining wall and the lowering of Lindsay Road.

Excavations next to South Leith Parish Church graveyard have now been completed and the most complex utility diversions on the route were completed at the Baltic Street Junction. Inbound and outbound rail has been installed between Constitution Place and Baltic Street.

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And in November the project reached a key milestone at Ocean Terminal with the first tram track on the route being installed.

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