THE contractor behind the Edinburgh Trams project has broken its silence to state that it intends to “fully support” the public inquiry in the belief that it will vindicate them in their role in the controversial £1 billion project.
German firm Bilfinger Berger were barred from speaking publicly during the project but are now keen to break their silence at an inquiry.
A spokesman for the firm said: “Bilfinger has not been involved in the inquiry to date, but is prepared to fully support the investigation where necessary. We are confident that the outcome of the inquiry will show that Bilfinger always acted in accordance with the contract and complied with our contractual obligations.”
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The firm set up to deliver the project - Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (TIE) – is now defunct but former TIE chairman David Mackay, previously branded Bilfinger Berger a “delinquent” contractor.
Speaking to The Scotsman upon stepping down in 2010, Mr Mackay, who was chairman of both Edinburgh Trams and Lothian Buses, criticised the German contractors, stating: “Bilfinger Berger was a delinquent contractor who scented a victim, who probably greatly underbid and would use the contract to make life extremely difficult for the city. And they have done exactly that.”
He added: “We had found crazy things like underground chambers on Princes Street and cables were not where they should be - it was hell on wheels.”
Last week First Minister-in-waiting Nicola Sturgeon granted increased powers to the inquiry with a view to forcing witnesses to give evidence – with those who refuse facing prison.
This comes after inquiry chairman Lord Hardie complained that witnesses had failed to co-operate with the probe into the mismanaged tram project.
Ms Sturgeon said the inquiry would be given statutory powers to call witnesses, describing the refusal to co-operate as “unjustifiable”.
This means if any of those called upon continue to refuse to help, they could face up to six months in jail.
It was understood that one of the reasons behind the choosing of an initial non-statutory inquiry was that it would “leave the door open” for possible legal action against the German contractors.
However council chiefs have since sought secondary legal advice and been assured that a new beefed-up statutory inquiry still does not hamper them in this.
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