Scots ministers take charge of Edinburgh tram project

14 Sep 11
The Scottish Government has announced it will take over the beleaguered Edinburgh tram project, which is running over budget and will only be partly built.

By Richard Johnstone | 14 September 2011

The Scottish Government has announced it will take over the beleaguered Edinburgh tram project, which is running over budget and will only be partly built.

Ministers had threatened to withhold the remaining £72m of their £500m contribution towards the construction of the line in the Scottish capital. But they have now confirmed they will provide the balance.

Announcing the takeover, Alex Neil, Cabinet secretary for infrastructure and capital investment, added that government agency Transport Scotland would send in a team of experienced project managers to run the scheme.

The move follows Edinburgh City Council’s confirmation earlier this month that the line would be built from Edinburgh Airport to St Andrews Square in the city centre. This reversed an earlier vote by councillors to construct the line only to Haymarket, in the west of the city. It was this decision had led the government to threaten to withhold its remaining funding.

Transport Scotland’s £500m contribution made up the majority of the £545m original budget for the project, but the cost has increased to £776m amid a series of design changes and disputes between the council’s transport agency and contractors Bilfinger Berger and Siemens. 

The extra £231m will be funded through the council’s prudential funding facility, but under the new agreement, Scottish Government ministers will have the power to make decisions on the project.

The line to St Andrews Square will complete only around three-quarters of the original plan to link the airport to Newhaven in the north of the city. Plans for the total route were scrapped earlier this year when concerns mounted over the rising costs and delays.

Neil said that the government shared ‘the frustration of many people in Edinburgh over the way the scheme has developed’.

He added: ‘We made it clear two weeks ago that we were no longer prepared to commit further public money to a route which was not financially viable and which did not deliver the link to the city centre which people rightly expected.

‘However, now that that link has been reinstated, it is vital that the remaining stages of the trams project is delivered on time and within the £776m budget that we are advised by City of Edinburgh Council is needed to complete the route to St Andrews Square by summer 2014.’

Neil highlighted that Transport Scotland had a ‘strong track record’ of delivering major projects.

The council's chief executive welcomed the involvement of Transport Scotland.

Sue Bruce said: 'The delivery of Edinburgh Trams remains the Council's responsibility and we are putting in place new arrangements to ensure that there is the best possible governance and operational oversight of the initiative. That will be complemented by the technical, project management expertise, and experience that Transport Scotland offers and I am very pleased to welcome their involvement.

'Our staff and theirs will work closely together as we look to enter a new phase in the project's history.'


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