In 2003, similar headlines declared that Phases 1a, 1b and 2 could be built for £375 million, ie, 29.3km of tramline, all the way to Newbridge, (£12.8m/km).
A few months later, headlines claimed that Phase 1a would cost £500m, with probably enough money left to build 1b (£20.9m/km).
After writing many letters and lobbying anyone who would listen about the inadequacies of the business case and supporting figures, the risk apportionment and the reverse engineering of the passenger numbers to match the spend, I woke up in early 2014 to learn that the trams would cost £776m and would terminate at York Place, a distance of only 13km (£59m/km), representing a five-fold cost increase over the years.
York Place to Newhaven, it was claimed, would cost £80m (£20m/km).
Nottingham has embarked on Phases 2 and 3 of its tramline – a length of 17.4km at a cost of £570m (£32.75m/km).
This project has missed its December completion date and the contractor, Vinci, is paying huge liquidated damages for non-delivery.
Friday heralded “trams to Newhaven” at a much revised cost of £145m plus inflation at a rate of £26m/km, and supporting this are reversed engineered passenger figures of 17 million.
What a coincidence that, since 2003, the passenger numbers have consistently supported the finances.
The Nottingham extension has been dogged by “unforeseen” service diversions. Given this and the fact that the City of Edinburgh Council admits it has no idea as to the state of the services between York Place and Newhaven, it seems that £145m will come nowhere near the cost of the build which, in reality, will cost in excess of £200m, with little marked increase in passenger numbers.
As a former managing director of a major construction company, I would be surprised if the City of Edinburgh Council, given its history of business case writing and mismanagement of trams, will receive competitive tenders from major contractors.
The Scottish Government should be reminded that the £500m grant had a precondition that the line should be built in its entirety, ie from the airport to Newhaven, before effectively paying again for the same works.
John R T Carson