Crumbling concrete forces repairs to 133 sections of Edinburgh’s tram line

Repairs have had to be made to 133 sections of Edinburgh’s tram line after concrete that should have lasted 50 years has crumbled under the weight of buses.

Saturday, 2nd October 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 13th October 2021, 8:35 am

Damage totalling 40m long on Princes Street and other roads is being fixed by contractor Bilfinger, which built the route that opened just seven years ago.

The company is completing the work at its own undisclosed expense after Edinburgh Trams said the firm had admitted liability for the faults, which were caused during construction.

It has forced a series of overnight closures of city centre streets, including parts of Princes Street and Shandwick Place this week, although there has been no planned tram disruption.

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Concrete beside the tram tracks with a 50-year life expectancy has crumbled in places just seven years after the Edinburgh Airport-York Place line opened. Picture: Scott Louden

City council Conservative group leader Iain Whyte said the news “begs lots of questions” over whether other defects remained.

The full extent of the problem comes two days after The Scotsman revealed Edinburgh Trams had ordered safety repairs after the "concrete form” defects became “degraded”.

The city council-owned company said the damaged areas were limited to “where there is heavy bus traffic”.

It said these were “at construction joints where the track is present”.

One of the 133 damaged sections

An Edinburgh Trams spokesperson said: “The expected life span is 50 years and that remains the case.

"These are construction defects, hence the liability for the repairs falling to the contractor.

"The maintenance contractor is meeting the cost obligations for this work."

However, its cost was "commercially sensitive”.

The spokesperson said: “Providing there are suitable weather conditions, the works will be completed this weekend.

“Of the approximate 5,500m of on-street track, 133 defects were identified.

"With each defect being approximately 0.3m in length on average, this represents 0.73 per cent of the on-street track length.”

Edinburgh Trams said track sealant, which protects the road from any stray electric current from the trams, had been replaced at the same time.

It said: “To minimise renewal costs, we have been monitoring the sealant to maximise its five-year life span.

"We are replacing that on a condition-based approach and the new product we are using has a ten-year lifespan.”

Edinburgh Trams declined to say how much that work had cost but said it was “part of a planned renewals programme as agreed with the council”.

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Safety repairs underway to fix Edinburgh Trams track ‘defects’

Mr Whyte said: “These defects show once again the problems with tram construction in Edinburgh are never ending.

"The saving grace on this occasion is at least the contractor, rather than the taxpayer, is footing the bill.

“That doesn’t take away from the disruption caused and begs lots of questions as to whether there are any other defects still out there.

"Or whether the lessons have been learned in signing off work under the current tram construction [extending the line to Newhaven].

“All the time, the costs to the taxpayer of the tram fiasco continue to rise, as while the original work finished years ago, there is still no sign of Lord Hardie’s Tram Inquiry report.“

A Bilfinger UK spokesperson said: “The repairs required were identified and monitored closely through a robust inspection programme, operated since the line opened.

"We worked alongside the council and Edinburgh Trams to deliver them.”

A council spokesperson said: “We would have expected the concrete along the entire route to have lasted the projected 50 years, and are disappointed that repairs are now required.

"However, we are assured that contractors, who are covering the costs of repairs in full, have worked closely with Edinburgh Trams to complete a programme of work, delivering a permanent solution.”

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