Edinburgh tram extension to cost £250m, I’ll wager – John McLellan

There was a little difficulty a couple of weeks ago when the Edinburgh Tram Inquiry’s media team corrected Council leader Adam McVey’s claim that the authority had “engaged with the tram inquiry and the expert witnesses to make sure we can cover every eventuality” about the £207m Newhaven spur.

The cost of the extension of Edinburgh's tram lines has proved controversial (Picture: Lesley Martin)

After a notice was posted on the inquiry website to point out there was no such engagement, Cllr McVey quickly explained the engagement was actually just officers giving evidence and the project team had “monitored proceedings to capture evidence from others”.

Those others included academics from Oxford Global Projects, Bent Flyvbjerg and Alexander Budzier, who were consulted to measure financial risk. Accordingly, a £50m contingency was earmarked in case, or when, things go astray and they estimate a 39 per cent chance of this money being needed.

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A robust addendum from transport convener Lesley Macinnes last week insisted the budget was £207m, that “this figure must be held to”, and added that any threat to the budget should be reported “in a timely manner” with an action plan “to bring the project back to within budget”.

This effectively ignores the Oxford boffins’ warning because, she effectively said, no matter what happens the budget will be always be £207m. The question then is who do you believe: a politician with no track record of infrastructure delivery or two international experts? Maybe I’m being overly negative, but my money’s on the Oxford boys and given what happened before I’ll take 5-2 it hits £250m. Must give William Hill a buzz.

No ‘emergency’ as park project gets go-ahead

A busy public meeting last week at St John’s Primary School heard how plans to build a facility for skates and bikes in the new Treverlen Park, on the site of the now demolished old St John’s are going ahead as planned.

The design is pretty much as agreed last March when planning permission was granted, although some minor adjustments had to be made to take some drainage and lighting issues into account.

Word went round that the budget was being cut and the skating area was being reduced and so the emergency public meeting was called after a difficult community council meeting last month.

Happily, it turned out there was no emergency but it’s funny how rumours start and a very effective presentation was able to calm local fears.

Review must reflect reality

After I called for a revision of the city’s policies about businesses that can or can’t operate in the main shopping areas of the city centre, in light of the fast approaching opening of the St James Centre, last week the City’s planning committee agreed to a review.

A study by property consultants Ryden confirms that the new centre will draw retailers eastwards, and after the recent decision to reject a building society’s application to open an office in what had been the Lothian Buses ticket centre on Hanover Street, the next job is to make sure the review reflects the reality of the situation. And common sense.

ScotRail ticket fail

Such fun at Haymarket station last week and over the weekend into Monday, where the six automatic ticket machines were all kaput, resulting in long queues at the ticket office. Having failed to fix the problem, was it too much to expect extra staff on Monday morning to deal with the rush? Seemingly so, and instead there were even bigger queues. Oyster cards, print at home? It all seems to be beyond ScotRail. And yes, I missed my train.