What business case for trams? 18 | 02 | 2011

    EDINBURGH'S TRAMS is simply a subject which will not go away; but this latest admission from the Vic Emery, the recently-appointed new chairman of the tram firm TIE, raises rather serious questions.

    Now, we all know the £545 million project is years overdue, work is basically at a standstill due to a major fallout with contractors Bilfinger Berger, and the budget is threatening to run even more out of control.

    So you would expect the new chairman to be immediately on top of things? Hmmm, well, at least you would think so.

    Within minutes of admitting project bosses may be forced to ask for more cash to help bail out the embattled scheme, Emery also admitted he was still in his "due diligence" phase and had yet to read the tram business case.

    Not yet read the business case? Should this not have been one of his primary priorities? In one breath he states the project will probably need more cash to dig it out of the ever-increasing hole it's disappearing into, and in the next he admits he has no idea what the business case is for the project. Brilliant!

    Perhaps it's worth taking a quick look at the previous track record of Mr Emery. Recently the former naval yard boss left the £300 million New Campus Glasgow project, which planned to create a "super campus" for 50,000 students. The Scottish Government called for a new business case to be drawn up and the future of the project looks uncertain.

    It won't surprise you, of course, to learn Mr Emery doesn't believe that role should be seen as a "blemish" on his CV after the colleges involved decided to take his chairman role 'in house'.

    "Budget issues became apparent," he said. "I have nothing to be ashamed about, there was no acrimony or ill-feeling. I don't see that as a blemish at all."

    Now Emery is in charge of rescuing the Edinburgh trams. His first real challenge — apart from getting to grips, belatedly, with the business case — is the last-ditch mediation talks with contractor Bilfinger Berger are due to start next month. He believes they are "very, very key" to the future of the project, though he admitted earing up the contract with Bilfinger remains one of the options ahead of the mediation talks.

    "Bilfinger Berger are part of the consortium and one of the options has to be to continue with that," Emery said. "But if we go in with a pre-determined position it won't be successful. We have to keep an open mind. One of the options would be to continue without Bilfinger, but that's just one of the options. The most likely option is that we will continue with them in some form."


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    Jim McGill

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