Trams cost spirals as route cut 09 | 10 | 2010

    EDINBURGH'S ILL-FATED tram scheme has plunged to new depths after project leaders confirmed they have no idea ho big the final price tag will be. And as if that wasn't enough, they also announced that the first phase will stop short of its original destination.

    While the transport gurus in Edinburgh City Council had long heralded the fact the initial route would link Edinburgh Airport to Leith, the revised plan sees the track stop at St Andrew Square, just off Princes Street.

    Naturally and understandably, traders in the Edinburgh's Leith Walk are livid that, having been forced to endure years of turmoil and disruption they are now not going to reap any benefit from the project.

    The mess though just gets bigger and bigger.

    The council and its tram company now have absolutely no idea how much the scaled-back route will cost; it is still in deep dispute with German construction giant Bilfinger Berger; the two parties are on course for a mega-expensive court battle and it's likely to cost around £200 million just to get the scheme back up and running.

    Just for good measure, even the scaled-back route isn't expected to generate a profit for at least three years and so will be subsidised by Lothian Buses.

    The earliest start date for the tram is now thought to have slipped back two years to at least 2013. And Bilfinger Berger have stated the cost of delivering even the scaled-back route will cost £700m.

    "Incremental delivery would allow the whole of phase one-a to be delivered in stages and over a flexible timescale under the council's control," city development director Dave Anderson and finance chief Donald McGougan said in a statement.

    "The council could then ensure that the infrastructure being delivered, at any point in time, is matched with available funding. A tram operating from the airport to St Andrew Square would also secure a high proportion of the economic benefits anticipated in the final business case and is capable of being successfully integrated with Lothian Buses' operations."

    There is no question the whole tram fiasco is a complete and utter horror story. The people of Edinburgh now face getting half a tram system at a vastly higher cost than was quoted for the whole job. The city's transport system and its councillors are in turmoil and it's time someone was held accountable.

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    Jim McGill

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