Everyone inside Edinburgh’s tram project ‘knew it would be over budget’

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EVERYONE inside Edinburgh’s tram project knew it would not be completed in time and on budget long before the contract was signed, the inquiry into the fiasco has heard.

Consultant David Crawley, who was brought in as engineering director in early 2007, said when he started he found out the entire design team had been back to Birmingham because of a dispute - they did not return for a year.

Mr Crawley was giving evidence as the inquiry chaired by Lord Hardie enters its fifth week.

He said he had been asked initially to conduct a quick review of the project in January 2007 because there were concerns about the rate of progress and then agreed to take on the role of engineering director to help tackle the problems.

The inquiry heard a preliminary design had been completed in June 2006, but by the start of 2007 no progress had been made on the detailed design work.

Mr Crawley said that as he asked people about the design issues, it was impossible to escape the wider problems with the project at that time.

“The phrases which kept on emerging were poor leadership, not feeling like one team and everyone knowing the project was too late to be delivered in anything like the original programme and budget.”

Lord Hardie said: “So even before the contract was signed, there was an appreciation it was too late to be delivered on time and on budget?”

Mr Crawley said: “I think that’s a very fair summary.”

He said there were proeblems between TIE, the council-owned company in charge of the project, and the design contractors SDS.

“Within an hour of starting the role as engineering director in Februrary 2007 I understood the entire detailed design team had been sent back to Birmingham by SDS and no work was being done because they had reached an impasse on 79 major issues, which meant SDS was essentially burning cash by keeping a design team in Edinburgh, so they left.”

The design team reassembled in July 2007, meaning there had been a year during which there had been no progress on detailed design.

Mr Crawley recommended changes in the way design issues were handled and the number of conflicts between TIE and SDS reduced.

But problems persisted and design work remained behind schedule.

Mr Crawley said: “It would have solved a lot of problems if the programme had been delayed to let the design to catch up.”

He said he had discussed this with the then project director Matthew Crosse, but it was made clear such a move would not be acceptable.

“There were political imperatives. The original programme had to be achieved by some means.”

He said soon after his arrival he had called together all the interested parties and identified a five-month delay in the programme.

But he said: “The only acknowledgement of the five-month delay was simply to say there would still be trams for Christmas - I understood that to mean Christmas 2010.

“I believe that commitment was met because there was a single tram on Princes Street by Christmas 2010.”

He said he recalled a tram vehicle parked at the end of Princes Street on newly laid track and open to the public.

“I remember it having to be moved, the wheels rotated - two rotations in each direction once a month to avoid damage due to inactivity.”