Wednesday, 29 June 2011
Edinburgh's Tram Fiasco
The opening of Scotland’s newest motorway yesterday under budget and ahead of schedule, makes painful viewing across the country in Scotland’s capital.
At roughly the same time Glasgow decided to plough ahead with a further 6 miles of the M74 to ease its traffic problems Edinburgh opted for 6 miles of tramlines. Unlike Glasgow the Edinburgh project has grossly exceeded its budget, up from £545m to around £770, is still years behind schedule and is now much reduced in scale from the original plan.
The budget failure and delays are bad enough but it is the utter incompetence of the project management TIE [Transport Initiatives Edinburgh] that has most disgusted people here. After 5 years of disruption, upheaval and contractual conflicts officials from TIE this week supplied Councillors with three options for the future and scrapping the entire scheme altogether- at a cost of £750m- was one of those choices. That’s right, we can choose to spend three quarters of a billion pounds and have nothing at all to show for it!
And it is a strong sign of the antipathy felt towards TIE and the entire project that 37% of people voted in an Edinburgh Evening News poll for that very option.
This issue is set to dominate next years Council elections and the recriminations are flowing thick and fast. The SNP blame Labour for coming up with the tram idea in the first place. Labour in return blame the SNP/LIB Dem coalition in charge of the City Council for the past 4 years of abject incompetence. In truth all 58 Councillors stand condemned as none of them were on top of the project as it veered off course.
And lest anyone think this doesn’t affect those living outside Edinburgh think again because £500m of the initial £545m budget comes from the Scottish Executive. They also face an additional extra demand.
I support trams in principle. I can see the merits they offer in cutting down congestion and CO2 emissions. I have travelled on the very successful and popular tram networks in Sheffield, Manchester and Croydon. But the problem with the Edinburgh scheme is that it was demanded by the city’s ‘business community’ not the people. Business leaders wanted to get to the airport quicker without having to use the bus. For the overwhelming majority of Edinburgh’s population the tram line network offered doesn’t come anywhere near us.
Furthermore the priority for Edinburgh is not a tram, regardless of whether it is £545 or £770. The people of this city need public housing, help with education and training, jobs and economic support as well as better health care. So as well as condemning the city fathers to charges of incompetence the tram fiasco also shows them to be completely out of touch they are with the real needs of the people of this city.