Anger at ‘Comatose’ Trams inquiry over delays

MSP Marco Biagi says the trams inquiry is taking too long.
MSP Marco Biagi says the trams inquiry is taking too long.
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THE inquiry into Edinburgh’s trams fiasco is in danger of taking longer than the project 
itself, an MSP claimed today.

Marco Biagi, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central, said that three months after inquiry chairman Lord Andrew Hardie asked for the help of the public, there was still no opportunity for people to submit evidence.

It is now three months since Lord Hardie told the public that he needed their help. As it stands, there is still no way for members of the public to answer that call.”

Marco Biagi

And he described the inquiry as “near comatose”.

In his first interview about the project, published in the Evening News on December 11, Lord Hardie – who has been charged with exposing what went wrong with the £776 million scheme – said he would issue a formal call for residents’ experiences at a later stage of the inquiry.

He said: “One of my remits is to speak about the consequences of the failures, of the cost. But the other consequence was the effect on households, on businesses, on developers, not only along the route of the tram, but along the route of diverted traffic.

“I really need to hear from them.”

But Mr Biagi said, three months on, there was still no way for the public to submit evidence to the inquiry and contact information was available for general inquiries only.

The inquiry website says: “A call for evidence will be issued at a time and stage of the inquiry deemed appropriate by Lord Hardie.”

Mr Biagi said: “It’s vital that the public hear answers as to why the tram project went so badly wrong, but the inquiry has seemed near comatose in its delay in opening for evidence.”

He criticised the inquiry as in danger of taking longer than the tram line construction, adding: “It is now three months since Lord Hardie told the public that he needed their help. As it stands, there is still no way for 
members of the public to answer that call.

“The danger is that members of the public lose interest in submitting evidence as the inquiry drags on.

“Due to the complex nature of events it is understandable that this process might take some time, but the inquiry should make it clear when they expect to call for submissions from the public.”

In December, Lord Hardie said the inquiry was set to examine more than two million digital files and 200 boxes of documents as evidence, with more to come.

A spokesman for the inquiry said Lord Hardie still had a “great deal of information” to look at and could give no idea of a date when the public would be invited to give evidence, or when public hearings were likely to begin.

No date has been set for the inquiry to report.

The spokesman said: “The Edinburgh tram inquiry is making progress in line with its published order of events and is at the stage of gathering material and retrieving and reviewing documents.

“Lord Hardie has stated that he is keen to hear from members of the public, local businesses, and other interested parties, on the consequences of the cost overruns, delays and reduction in scope of the Edinburgh Trams project. This will be the opportunity for people to provide written evidence to the inquiry. Details of how to submit this written evidence will be issued in due course as stated in the order of events.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com