Edinburgh tram extension '˜must wait for inquiry verdict'

AN MSP is calling for a guarantee that the tram extension to Newhaven will not go ahead until Lord Hardie's inquiry into the original project has reported and the council has had time to implement the recommendations.
An Edinburgh tram. Picture: Jon SavageAn Edinburgh tram. Picture: Jon Savage
An Edinburgh tram. Picture: Jon Savage

And he says the Scottish Government should intervene if the council seeks to carry on regardless.

Jeremy Balfour, former Tory group leader on the city council and now a Lothians MSP, raised the issue at a recent briefing for parliamentarians given by council leader Adam McVey.

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“He said they had their timetable and they wanted to stick to it,” said Mr Balfour.

“It seems arrogant of the council leader to think he knows better than the inquiry.

“The inquiry might find the best way to deliver the tram extension is not the way the council plans to do it. If that’s the case, what financial risk would that put the council and the taxpayer in? I was deeply worried by his approach.”

Councillors in the Capital have already approved in 
principle the plan to take the tramline down Leith Walk and on to Newhaven and are due to decide on a final go-ahead next autumn.

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Mr Balfour said: “I want the council to acknowledge the tram inquiry has a role to play and nothing can happen until it concludes and we have time to work out what those conclusions mean for any large project in Edinburgh.

“If the council is not willing to do that, either Transport Scotland or the Scottish Government itself should step in to protect the city of Edinburgh.

“If this goes wrong again, the financial reputation of the city would be damaged.

“We don’t know what Lord Hardie is going to recommend or how long it will take to put his recommendations in place.”

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The inquiry, launched in 2014, is currently holding public hearings into what went wrong with the much-delayed and over-budget £776m project. No date has been given for publication of the report.

Cllr McVey said he was confident Lord Hardie would report well before next October and could not say what would happen if there was some delay.

“We have not yet decided what we will do if we are in that position,” he said.

“My preference would be to stick to the timescale. For every six months or year that we delay you have to build inflation into the price and while 1.5 or three per cent might not sound much, if you’re talking about a £165m project, that’s quite a lot of money. I don’t think the people of Edinburgh would take kindly to forking out millions of pounds extra.”