The Edinburgh Tram development put the capital on the international stage for all the wrong reasons. Cost over-runs and extended delays came partly from a major dispute with the key contractor. Although the traumas remain ingrained, Edinburgh Council believes proceeding with Phase II can boost the city economy and help transform its waterfront area.
While the ultimate decision has now been deferred until after the 2017 council elections, there will be major concerns about Edinburgh enduring another financial fiasco should the extension go ahead. To alleviate the risk of history repeating itself the city should consider how it wants to deal with any disputes which do arise.
Dispute boards offer a sensible option as they can mitigate risk, identify potential problems early and develop solutions while avoiding disagreements arising or escalating.
Dispute board members are usually appointed at the outset and stay in place throughout a project. Along with a legal representative, boards are typically comprised of engineers and people with other building-related expertise who can take a professional view in resolving a disagreement. They tend to meet three to four times a year during a project but can also be brought in when disputes arise. They are in place on a range of infrastructure projects from the Rio Olympics to the new Forth Road Crossing.
If the Edinburgh Tram extension does go ahead, the appointment of a dispute board could help put the city on the international stage for all the right reasons.
• Lindy Patterson QC is a partner at international law firm CMS