Edinburgh tram extension: Children and residents could travel by tram before official opening
and live on Freeview channel 276
Schoolchildren and residents who have faced disruption from the tram extension project could be invited to ride the trams on the new route ahead of the official start of passenger services, city transport convener Scott Arthur has said.
He revealed the plan as councillors approved extra spending of £100,000 on legal costs associated with the public inquiry into the original tram project and legal action by the council against former arms-length tram company TIE and legal advisers DLA Piper.
In a radio interview ahead of Thursday’s full council meeting, Cllr Scott criticised the long wait for the inquiry to report and said Edinburgh had already learned lessons from what went wrong with the original project and moved on. Testing of the new route from York Place to Newhaven began this week. Cllr Scott said: “The initial testing is going very well indeed and we're now at a stage where we're starting to plot when we could be able to start inviting paying passengers onto the service.”
He said the project would be completed on time and within budget. "We set off a few years ago saying we were going to complete by spring 2023 and it would be delivered for £207m. It looks like we might come slightly under budget.” He said it was hoped passenger services could start before all the improvements to footpaths and cycle lanes which are part of the project are finished. And he continued: “We are drawing up plans to invite members of the local community an schoolchildren onto the tram before it goes formally live, for them to say they were among the first people on the trams, just to reward them for all the disruption they've put up with.”
The public inquiry into the original tram project, chaired by Lord Hardie, was set up in 2014 and the then First Minister Alex Salmond said t would be “swift and thorough”. But the public hearings came to an end in May 2018, a report is still awaited and the cost has risen to £13 million.
Cllr Arthur said: "It has cost more than the Iraq war inquiry and it has taken longer than it took to deliver the original tram scheme itself, so the the inquiry could have paid actors to re-enact the whole thing by now. It's quite incredible that the way it has been set up mean it has been able to run on like this – and cost £13m at a time when public services right across the country are struggling. What is the individual cost to all the parties to this inquiry as well? It must be approaching the £13m cost the Scottish Government has run up, so it could easily be the total cost for all parties may well be over £20m.
“While it's important that the inquiry remains independent I really do think it has to report soon and then we have to move on. The original tram scheme damaged Edinburgh's reputation quite a bit, but I think as a city we have moved on and we're just about to open up a new line. So we're quite keen to move on and this inquiry being published is absolutely part of that.
“The project we're delivering right now has learned a lot from the ongoing inquiry because w had people in the public hearings listening to the evidence, so we've drawn our own conclusions about what the issues were, but ultimately the original project was £375m over budget, which i absolutely incredible, so I think the public absolutely deserve to understand who is accountable for that.”