Leader: The sooner we have an inquiry the better

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it would be a very unwise politician or supporter who now declared “victory” in the sorry saga of Edinburgh’s trams scheme.

For a start, even though a degree of common sense returned with yesterday’s council vote to take the proposed line to St Andrew Square, no-one who has followed the twists and turns of the fiasco will be sure of the outcome until a tram is finally running, somewhere.

And given what has happened so far, who would bet against further delays, increases in costs or other nightmares along the way?

Besides, even if a tram line is now delivered from the airport to the city centre, by 2014 and for no more than £770 million, it would take some amount of brass neck to proclaim this a success.

This is the tram, remember, that we were promised would run from the airport to Newhaven, with lines to Little France and Newcraighall plus a loop to complete the circle from Haymarket to the waterfront.

That was all supposed to cost £500m, with the first tram running on February 25 this year, according to the project’s final business case of October 2007.

In other words, even if the project does now proceed to St Andrew Square without a single further hiccup, the trams project has been a disaster at least on a par with the Holyrood building.

And, as with that scheme, which spun out of control, there must be a full public inquiry into the trams.

The News has been saying as much for more than a year – much to the dismay of those at TIE who have reason to avoid one. It is telling that the project will now be managed by a private firm accountable to councillors and their officials.

Like the Holyrood inquiry, some want to wait until the trams are delivered before the probe begins.

We don’t agree. There’s no good reason why the questions can’t be answered sooner – and the quicker it happens the better the chance of getting the full story, especially from those at TIE and the council who have already departed.

Who knows, the lessons learned may even help get the truncated tram line to its final destination.