'Trams would not have gone ahead if we'd known', says Ex-Lord Provost

Eric Milligan is standing down next year

Eric Milligan is standing down next year

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EDINBURGH’S tram project should never have gone ahead, former Lord Provost Eric Milligan has said.

The veteran Labour politician, who is standing down at next year’s local elections, said in a radio interview that if councillors had realised the problems that lay ahead they would not have approved the scheme.

An inquiry is now under way into project and what went wrong and all councillors who were in office during the lifetime of the scheme have been contacted and invited to give evidence.

Trams were originally planned to run on two lines – one from Edinburgh Airport to Newhaven and the other from Haymarket to Granton via Crewe Toll. Funding of £375 million was awarded by the Scottish Government.

But by the time it opened in 2014, the curtailed route from the airport to York Place in the city centre was priced at £776m.

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Asked if he wished the money had been saved and spent on something better, Councillor Milligan said: “I think, in truth, yes. If all of us knew then what we know now and how difficult, how expensive and how limited the system is we probably would not have gone ahead.”

He was then asked: “You’re saying if we could roll back time the trams should never have gone ahead?”

He replied: “Yes, I think I am.”

But Cllr Milligan gave his backing to the plans to extend the current tram route to Newhaven as proposed in the original scheme.

He said: “It is important that we complete what was intended between the airport and the sea port and we revitalise the waterfront area.”

But some of his colleagues told the News they were unhappy about his remarks.

One Labour source said: “Eric was part of a group that voted to pursue the trams after looking at the reasons why we should have them. Of course we all wanted it to be on time and on budget. Is he saying they shouldn’t have gone ahead even if they had been on time and on budget?”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com