Edinburgh Tram inquiry sends questionnaires to city councillors

Councillors are being asked 49 questions for the tram inquiry. Picture: Lesley Martin
Councillors are being asked 49 questions for the tram inquiry. Picture: Lesley Martin
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THE inquiry into Edinburgh’s trams fiasco is asking councillors who were in office at the time whether they believe they were given enough information on the project and the risks involved.

The final £776 million cost of the curtailed tram route was double the original estimate for two lines and it was three years overdue when it opened in 2014.

Lord Andrew Hardie is heading up the tram inquiry. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Lord Andrew Hardie is heading up the tram inquiry. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Former Lord Advocate Lord Hardie is leading the inquiry into what went wrong with the project.

Although many councillors were not directly involved in overseeing the project, they took part in key decisions, including approving a business case for the project.

Questionnaires sent to councillors and ex-councillors set out 49 detailed questions covering different stages of the project, from the creation of arms-length company TIE through the escalating costs, the rows with the contractors and the decision to cut the line short, to the eventual resolution of the dispute and the council having to borrow money to finish the construction.

As well as asking the politicians about their understanding of arrangements and decisions made, the questionnaires also ask whether they had any concerns at the time and whether councillors were told in enough detail about developments in the project.

One councillor who did not play a leading role in the project said most colleagues at the time accepted what they were told and did not have the knowledge to question it.

“The vast majority of people would not have the professional background to challenge what was being said. If things are presented in a convincing way, it’s much harder to challenge unless you have that knowledge or there are other people who are more independent who are looking at it.

“You might ask: were votes being taken and judgements made with a full grasp of the issues behind them? I suspect you would come up with the answer No.”

The councillor acknowledged the feeling they were not sufficiently informed to be making some of they key judgements on the project was probably more in retrospect than a view they had at the time.

“Late on, when the issue was whether the line should finish at Haymarket rather than going along Princes Street, I think people did have big questions then.

“A lot of the case for the trams was predicated on it going to Leith, so why suddenly stop at Haymarket?

“But when it was things like the business case being presented, most probably just took it as read.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com