Tram spend so far hits £440m

TRAM bosses have spent at least £30 million on a new deal that will see one contractor return to work and the council take ownership of equipment from another.

&#149 New contract still leaves passengers in the dark about tram destination.

A new report on the outcome of mediation talks shows a total of around 440m has now been spent on the project.

The figure comes just 24 hours after it emerged contractors are to return to Princes Street for the best part of a year to repair the botched job to lay tracks on the famous street.

Only yesterday the council said the total amount spent on the project was 411.5m, but this figure has now been revised following publication of the latest report, and places new doubt on exactly how much of the line can be built for the remainder of the 545 million budget.

The deal sees contractors return to work, with focus on the "priority locations" of Haymarket Yards, the tram depot and the A8 underpass, while the council has also agreed to buy overhead power lines, track and equipment from Siemens.

It is part of an agreement which, if agreed by councillors in June, will see the council enter into a new contract to deliver the line between Edinburgh Airport and St Andrew Square.

However, if the money to build as far as the city centre is not available, then Bilfinger Berger and Siemens will be required to carry out the "priority works" at Haymarket and Princes Street and the rest of the tram contract will "automatically terminate," leaving the parties to discuss "separation terms".

John Carson, a former head of maintenance at Network Rail, said the new deal was a "complete capitulation" on the part of the council.

He said: "What they have agreed to is priority works to clean up parts of the city - everything else is up in the air."

The report also recommended changes to how the project is governed, with tram firm TIE and Transport Edinburgh Limited (TEL) told to "review overhead costs and achieve savings wherever possible".

TIE again denied rumours that chief executive Richard Jeffrey could be set to leave the project, a move which would save more than 140,000 a year on his salary.

New Lothians Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale, who met with TIE yesterday, described the latest report as "17 pages of nothing".

Essential Edinburgh, the body representing the city's shops, said its members would seek compensation for the new works on Princes Street, which will close the road to traffic.

Liz McAreavey, its interim chief executive, said: "We have a number of concerns around the impact of this latest work on our levy-payers and stakeholders."