COUNCIL chiefs today insisted the tram project would be completed within the current budget despite new figures showing three quarters of the money has already been spent with two years to go.
The latest data reveals almost £600 million has been spent on the scheme so far, including around £70m in the past three months, taking the cost of the trams well past the original budget of £545m.
According to the timetable for the project – now working to a budget of £776m – most major sections of the route from the airport to the city centre are not due to be completed until early 2014. The trams are due to go into public use in the summer of that year.
Opposition councillors said they feared the project’s costs were about to spiral out of control again. But the council said it was confident the trams would be completed within the latest budget, which councillors approved in September.
Transport convener Gordon Mackenzie said there were no grounds for believing the cost would escalate, despite there being less than £200m of the budget left for the next two years’ of work.
He said: “The rate of spend is not dependent on the length of time. The idea that you look at the money and divide it by the timeline is nonsense. That’s not how it works.”
He said officials in charge of the tram scheme had set out the latest situation at a briefing for all parties a fortnight ago.
“It was made clear we are ahead of programme, within budget and there was no cause for concern about the cost.”
Labour transport spokeswoman on the council, Lesley Hinds, said people would be shocked that so much money has already been spent on the trams. She said: “It’s nonsense for the council to claim the project is now ahead of schedule when it is running years late and it has gone way over budget like it has.
“I’m very cynical that the cost is not going to rise again as it has had to be revised so many times in the past and it is very difficult to believe anything you are told about this project.”
John Carson, a former director of maintenance at Network Rail, who has been a long-time critic of the Edinburgh trams project, said: “I cannot see any way this project is going to come in under £776m. You only have to look at various sections of the route, particularly at Haymarket and St Andrew Square, to see how much work still needs to be done.”
Transport Scotland, which oversees Scottish Government funding for the project, said: “We continue to work with Edinburgh City Council to ensure that the project is progressing well along the entire route and meets the programme and budget agreed by the council last year.”