Trams: 'Remedial work' may spell more misery yet

THE Capital faces fresh tram misery after it emerged that yet more work is needed to move underground pipes and cables in the city centre.

ENTRENCHED: City could see a return to disruption caused by utility works last year

Tram firm TIE, which previously claimed the work was all but complete, has begun the search for a new contractor to carry out utility diversions and "remedial" works for Scottish Water between Haymarket and York Place.

The council-owned company today said it would attempt to keep disruption to a minimum by carrying out the work at the same time as track-laying. But critics said TIE were having to re-do utility works carried out since 2008, which have subsequently been found to be substandard.

According to figures released by TIE earlier this year, 50,000 metres of utilities have been diverted, 97 per cent of the total, with the remainder being "local connections and minor cabling works", which will be finished off at the conclusion of the project. But it is understood there are real concerns among contractors about utility work carried out in Shandwick Place and the diversion of water pipes in and around Princes Street.

Adverts for a new contractor have only been placed within the last few days.

John Carson, a long-standing critic of the tram project and a former director of maintenance at Network Rail, said: "Most of this work wasn't done to the right standard. This new contract means digging up all the areas where the work was contentious. That means digging up between Haymarket and Princes Street.

"This goes back to the heady days of Princes Street and TIE being hellbent on getting it open and the rumours that abounded that the subcontractors employed by Carillion were not doing the works to the standard required."

Mr Carson said there were even suggestions the wrong colour of pipes had been used around Haymarket and in Leith Walk. It was the lengthy delays to the utility diversion work which initially led to the contract dispute with Bilfinger Berger.

It is understood that the contract drawn up between TIE and the construction consortium promised Bilfinger Berger would have "exclusive licence", meaning the streets would be clear of other works.

Earlier this year it emerged tram bosses had reached an agreement with construction giant Carillion after secret mediation talks, with the Wolverhampton-based firm seeking extra money after moving thousands of metres of underground utility cables.

Carillion ended its association with the tram project late in 2009 when tram bosses said around 80 per cent of the utility work had been completed.

Northern Irish firm Farrans and Middlesex-based Clancy Docwra were then drafted in to complete outstanding work at Haymarket, Picardy Place, the airport and Ocean Terminal.A spokeswoman for Edinburgh Trams said: "The majority of this work relates to the outstanding utilities commitment and includes ducting and street lighting. The intention is to carry this out in tandem with the infrastructure on-street works to avoid further disruption to the city at a later date.

"It will also provide the opportunity to ensure all works carried out to date are suitable with the final design for the overhead line equipment which was not completed at the time the utility works occurred."