Tram final bill just short of £1bn

The trams cost close to �1bn. Picture: Scott Taylor
The trams cost close to �1bn. Picture: Scott Taylor
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The final cost of the tram project is to be officially signed off – with the end bill close to £1 billion.

Councillors will be asked next week to approve the breakdown, confirming the shortened route was delivered on its revised budget of £776m. Details of the single largest contract have been revealed, with £427,238,356.15 going to the InfraCo consortium, including contractors Bilfinger Berger and Siemens.

The figure represents four-fifths of the original budget, and is more than £100m higher than the roughly £300m anticipated when the project launched in 2007. With interest payments of £228m on the £231m loan taken out by the city council to cover the budget overrun, the true cost to Edinburgh is closer to £1bn.

Council leader Andrew Burns said the report marked a significant milestone. He said: “You can’t deny the fact that it was a problematic gestation in terms of delivering the project. Getting over that, and getting ourselves on the front foot, is having a big psychological impact. This report represents the closure of all the financial arrangements and contacts. This draws a line under the financials.

“The main contract has been settled without any disputes or claims. It is signed off, so there is no comeback now from Siemens, Bilfinger Berger, or from the council for that matter.”

The news comes as the council confirmed that current staff would be able to pass information to an upcoming inquiry into the network regardless of restrictions in their contracts.

They will be able to give evidence without fear of losing their jobs, after chiefs confirmed they would not enforce any secrecy clauses .

A guarantee had already been issued to former staff that gagging clauses would be waived, but the same will now apply to those still in a job.

Anonymity has been offered by the inquiry for whistleblowers with evidence to provide to the inquiry. However, an advocate with knowledge of the inquiry told the Evening News that without a guarantee from their employer, those employees would still be in breach of their contract if they revealed privileged information.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said: “I can’t see how you can give evidence anonymously if to do so would breach your employment contract. It’s not anonymous, it’s privileged. The fact that you do it anonymously to a judge-led inquiry doesn’t make it any less a breach of your contract.”

Councillor Burns said that he did not believe negative publicity from the inquiry would damage the popularity of the network since its launch.

“All the parties in the City Chambers have been supportive of the inquiry. I think it’s right and proper given the way the project went not just over budget, but over schedule that there is an inquiry so that the mistakes are uncovered and not repeated in the future.”

A spokeswoman for the council said: “The council has given its commitment to co-operate with the public inquiry and will allow its employees to give evidence fully and freely to the inquiry.”