Edinburgh tram public inquiry call ahead of launch

CALLS for a public inquiry into the Edinburgh tram fiasco were stepped up today with the launch of a campaign for a probe into the £776 million project.

An Edinburgh tram passes Haymarket. Picture: Ian Georgeson

City solicitor Daniel Donaldson aims to gather at least 10,000 signatures in support of the move, and said more than 100 people had signed the petition so far.

The petition demands that First Minister Alex Salmond honours his pledge to order an inquiry into the tram project, which is hundreds of millions of pounds over budget and will be completed tomorrow three years late.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The Scottish Government today repeated that it would welcome an inquiry, but said that could be delayed if the city council pursued its legal action against its tram project advisers.

An Edinburgh tram passes Haymarket. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Mr Donaldson said he already has backing from the Edinburgh Green Party and the east coast section of the Federation of Small Businesses.

He said: “The project lacked accountability, suffered from maladministration, poor financial management, was fraught with delays and lengthy contract disputes.

“While Edinburgh continued to bankroll the trams project without the appropriate oversight, the city was also pushing through cuts to essential public services to balance the books. How is it possible to cut and spend simultaneously?

“The building of an Edinburgh tram is no consolation to those who have or will have to endure a retraction to their support services in future.

“This is in addition to the six year period where the beauty of the City was ruined, turning the city centre, Leith and peripheral areas into one massive building site.

“Leith has had a particularly raw deal, because after enduring what seemed like endless road closures, utility realignments and road works, there is no tram to show for it.”

Speaking ahead of the first passenger-carrying tram on the nine-mile Edinburgh Airport-city centre line at 5am tomorrow, Mr Donaldson said: “The time and circumstances are right. There is overwhelming public interest in an inquiry.

“The budget works out at around £1,800 for every resident in Edinburgh. It is clear that lessons have to be learned from the Edinburgh trams project, lest history repeats itself.

“An inquiry would give that voice, restore public confidence and some limited closure for the aggrieved.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “As we have said on many occasions before, we would welcome a public inquiry.

“The current focus is rightly on ensuring the people of Edinburgh receive an effective passenger service once it is up and running on 31 May.

“We then intend to meet with the council to discuss how any inquiry could be best structured in order to establish clear lessons for similar projects going forward.

“We are aware of the council’s decision to continue outstanding legal proceedings against other key advisers to the project (not Transport Scotland), and both await the outcome with interest and note the proceedings could potentially impact on the timing and thereby scope of any inquiry.”