City brings in private firm to take over tram project

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A PRIVATE company has been called in to take over the trams project amid fresh hope the money can be found to get the troubled scheme back on track, it can be revealed today.

International consultant Turner & Townsend has been appointed project manager as council chiefs prepare to order “full steam ahead” on building the line to the city centre. It will take over from the council’s own firm TIE in a move that signals the death knell for the arms-length company.

A council meeting next week will be presented with a detailed funding package on how to meet the estimated £770 million cost of completing the tram route from the airport to St Andrew Square.

A senior council source said today: “TIE is toxic and has been for some time. We believe it will be good for the project to bring in a project manager to have a fresh look.”

The decision to take on a private company as project managers in place of TIE will be controversial, but insiders said the hope was that employing Turner & Townsend could end up costing less than continuing with TIE.

City development director Dave Anderson addressed staff at TIE yesterday to warn them of further redundancies. It is understood TIE will gradually be wound down over the next couple of months.

Transport convener Gordon Mackenzie said: “Turner & Townsend are experienced project managers who have recently completed working on the Dublin trams project and have the skills we need.

“TIE is reducing in size. Turner & Townsend will manage the remaining staff on behalf of the council.”

It is understood the plan to be presented to next Thursday’s full council meeting is for the authority to borrow the money and repay the loan – expected to be more than £200m – at around £15m a year. Chief executive Sue Bruce will identify where the money can be found to meet the repayments.

A source said the cash would not mean cuts to existing budgets.

There had been speculation that Ms Bruce would ask for more time to put together a funding package, but the source told the Evening News the deal reached at mediation earlier this year required the council to sign an agreement with the contractors by the end of the month.

“If the council does not show it is serious about making progress by then, it leaves it open to the consortium to walk away and the council would be subject to court action.The council will be implored to make a decision next week.

They have found a mechanism of being able to borrow the money and identified money that could be used to repay the loan,” the source said.

Work on laying tracks is due to start around Haymarket next month.

iswanson@edinburghnews.com

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