City leader Jenny Dawe today said a public inquiry into the tram project in the run-up to May’s local elections would descend into a “political blame game”.
Responding to calls for the Scottish Government to launch an immediate public inquiry into the beleagured project, Councillor Dawe said she fears the scheme would be used as a “political football” by politicians during an inquiry.
She wants the inquiry to be put off until later in the project so that it does not distract officials from the work of getting the line built quickly.
Her comments came after contractors restarted work on Princes Street over the weekend.
It has also emerged that tram works could return imminently to other parts of the route, including at Haymarket and Shandwick Place.
A “works plan” including an intricate series of diversions is close to being finalised by contractors and council chief executive Sue Bruce, with contractors said to be “raring to go”.
Cllr Dawe said: “As soon as we have an inquiry, everybody lays blame where they can; there’s all sorts of ways you can make this a political blame game and, with local elections in May, I do not think that is in anyone’s interests.”
The Scottish Government has agreed in principle to a trams inquiry but has rejected calls for it to start straight away, arguing the priority is to complete the project.
Cllr Andrew Burns, leader of the Labour group on the council, said: “It needs to commence as soon as possible. This issue has become so serious for the capital city that it has gone beyond local or national elections. Many of the key players have already left and some may well leave between now and next May so it is imperative that we get on with it now.”
Tram firm TIE is in the process of being wound up and the remaining members of staff are to find out this week whether they are being made redundant or offered new positions. Some that are seen as having vital experience of the project are likely to be given new roles with consultants Turner & Townsend, who are being brought in to help with project management.
After the settlement agreement was signed last Thursday, council officials and contractors began thrashing out details of a plan of works across the route from Edinburgh Airport to St Andrew Square.
Details of the work plan have now been provided by the contractors, who are awaiting approval from the city council.
Cllr Dawe said: “I have not, as yet, seen the plan and I do not know if it is absolutely completed, but I spoke to the chief executive and she said everybody is very eager to get going. It is in everybody’s interests to get work done as quickly as possible, and with as little disruption as possible.”