LETTERS: Major flaws in the tram extension business case

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Further to my letter (‘Tram extension carries greater risk to finances’, December 1 ), I am pleased that the City of Edinburgh Council has acknowledged its errors by amending the tram extension briefing document, ‘Next Step’.

However, making corrections under pressure is no substitute for a rigorous independent checking system. There are thousands of documents in the data room that the public is not allowed to see and these too will, based on past experience, contain major errors.

CEC abdicated its responsibilities to Tie at considerable cost and reputational damage. Now we have a few highly paid, self-employed consultants who seem to have taken their place.

I understand that these consultants are leading CEC’s efforts to promote the tram extension, but like Tie, it seems there is no one sufficiently competent within CEC to provide the checks or balances to curb their zeal, monitor their ability to compile a business case or manage a complex major project.

There are still fundamental problems in the Outline Business Case. Despite the correction, it contains contradictions, eg, the bar chart on page 59 shows different scenarios compared to a discounted cash flow (dcf) for the Newhaven option, two scenarios that are obviously wrong; construction cost up 25% should result in a greater dcf when compared to the option and Capital Grant of 50% should result in a decrease.

I find it frightening that the council is set to go ahead with Stages 1 & 2 on wrongly presented, over optimistic information, an OBC that still has fundamental issues and a heavily revised briefing paper that suggests the City of Edinburgh could overspend by £60m on a project that has elusive benefits without consulting its citizens - the very people who might be surcharged to pay for their foolishness.

John R T Carson, Kirkliston Road, South Queensferry

Council ban is part of a wider SNP agenda

The news that Edinburgh council has expanded the ban on inhaling tobacco smoke and water vapour to more premises owned by the council tax payer is not as benign as it might first appear.

It is tempting to dismiss smoking as a predominantly working class pastime that can be suppressed, demonised and marginalised without offending anyone that matters too much to the political classes.

But this ban is part of a wider strategy of the SNP embodied in a policy document entitled ‘Creating a Tobacco-Free Generation – A Tobacco Control Strategy for Scotland’.

This title evinces a chilling truth about the SNP government and its attitude towards the people of Scotland - a belief that the state moulds and controls society and its future, rather than the other way round.

Today it may be smokers they come for - it may be hobbies and pastimes that most of us dislike or disapprove of. But given that principle and philosophy it could be anything that reflects the prejudices of the political class of the day.

It is sad and ironic, then, that on the 250th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Muir, the great political reformer who championed the individual against the state and paid such a high price for it, that we should find ourselves living under such a government, and doubly ironic that its battle cry is ‘Freedom!’

Michael Calwell, Oxford Street, Edinburgh

Weighty problem for Forth Road Bridge

I see that the Forth Road Bridge’s closure also extends to pedestrians and cyclists. If their minimal extra weight is considered problematic, then the structure is clearly in more trouble than the public is being told.

My guess is that the bridge will never re-open to traffic. But what are the safety implications for people living nearby in the case of total or partial collapse?

John Eoin Douglas, Spey Terrace, Edinburgh

RHS hotel plan wings are not skyscrapers

Gina Davidson threw in a barb about the new wings in the proposals for the hotel development at the old Royal High (‘Hotel needn’t dominate city’) News, December 3).

She mentioned ‘skyscrapers’ in this context of wings that are ‘so tall’.

Really? As far as I can tell from the elevation drawings you publish, the wings are six storeys at each end and there are many buildings of six or seven or more storeys in the world heritage site.

St Andrew’s House across Regent Road is six storeys on the front elevation, for example.

My personal view is that the architect has produced an excellent design, with the wings at graded heights which act to highlight the classical building, not overpower it as Ms Davidson suggests

This proposal, if approved, will bring life to what is currently a dull backwater brooded over by a declining building and will guarantee the restoration and ongoing maintenance of that building. I hope the planning committee approves this attractive proposal and the city wins the benefits that will accrue.

Roy McCluskey, Malbet Wynd, Edinburgh

Auld Alliance may come under pressure

I wonder how the French now view the Auld Alliance after seeing so many Scottish politicians in Westminster and Holyrood turn their backs on them after they asked for their help and support.

Paul Lewis, Guardwell Crescent, Edinburgh