Cost of Edinburgh Tram Inquiry hits £5m

A Tram heading eastbound on Princes Street. Picture: Ian Rutherford

A Tram heading eastbound on Princes Street. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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The official inquiry into why the Edinburgh tram project finished five years late and hundreds of millions of pounds over budget has cost Scottish taxpayers almost £5m so far.

The total cost of the Edinburgh Tram Inquiry had reached £4.8m by the end of September, according to internal financial details released following a Freedom of Information request by Evening News sister title inews.co.uk.

The investigation into the notoriously mismanaged infrastructure project was set up by Alex Salmond in June 2014, with the former First Minister promising it would be “swift and thorough”.

But the Inquiry, which is being led by Lord Hardie, has since gathered six million documents and has yet to call any witnesses to give evidence in public – or set a publication date for its final report. The Scottish Government’s spending plans for 2017-18 set the Inquiry’s budget for the year at £1.5m, bringing its total budget to £8m.

This is only £2.2m less than the Chilcot Inquiry into the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war.

The Inquiry had spent more than £2.4m on staff costs and £978,000 on legal fees by the end of September, the financial figures show. A further £704,000 was spent on accommodation, £607,000 on IT and £187,000 on “miscellaneous” costs, according to the details released by Transport Scotland.

The Edinburgh tram project was originally forecast to cost £375m and be completed by 2009 when it was first suggested in 2003. But by the time it was finally finished in 2014 it had cost taxpayers £776m, with trams running along a much shorter route than initially planned.

Responding to the latest figures, Scottish Conservative Lothians MSP Miles Briggs said: “The last thing people in Edinburgh wanted was a costly inquiry into this fiasco. Businesses and residents have been badly hit by the cost, disruption and delays of the project.

“But now the trams are here, they just want to get on with it. The fact this inquiry has risen in cost so significantly is proof it was the wrong thing to do.”

A spokeswoman for the Edinburgh Tram Inquiry said the team was still expecting to hold “some oral hearings” at which witnesses will be asked to appear, adding that an announcement would be made “at the appropriate time”. She said Lord Hardie was aiming to produce a “comprehensive, fair and balanced report that delivers best value for the public purse”.

“To date substantial progress has been made including identifying, retrieving and reviewing more than six million documents and the ongoing gathering of statements from witnesses of interest. In August the Inquiry team began the process of interviewing members of the public affected by the trams project.

“Lord Hardie and his team are determined to conduct a thorough investigation into the reasons behind the Edinburgh Tram project delays and cost escalations and to deliver a report and recommendations that meet the terms of his remit, to ensure lessons are learned for future major infrastructure projects.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have been clear from the outset that the Inquiry should be efficient and cost effective, however we know that major infrastructure projects do generate large quantities of documentation.”