Edinburgh tram fiasco: 'Public trust in council suffered as result of tram project and still hasn't recovered'
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SNP councillor Danny Aston spoke out as the council's transport and environment committee considered the findings of Lord Hardie's inquiry into what went wrong with the tram project, which was completed three years late, massively over budget and covering a shorter route than planned.
Lord Hardie found the council had failed to monitor the project adequately, said the council's arms-length tram firm TIE had mismanaged it and criticised the Scottish Government for withdrawing Transport Scotland's support.
Cllr Aston said the project had caused "dreadful reputational damage". And he continued: "I think the damage that was done to the people of Edinburgh's trust in this council is still something we haven't recovered from. And the sometimes kneejerk cynicism and the apathy that makes all of our jobs more difficult is, I'm not saying wholly a result of the initial tram project, but I think you can trace a fair bit of it back to there.
"Learning the right lessons from the Hardie report and fom the successful delivery of Trams to Newhaven gives us the opportunity finally to remedy some of the damage that has been done in the relationship between this council and the people who live in this city."
Transport convener Scott Arthur said in many ways the world had moved on, but it was still important to reflect on the impact of the tram project on the city, especially the human and business impact. “In a lot of ways the inquiry report vindicates the many people who do feel let down by how the council and others proceeded in that first project. And it also reflects the reputational damage to Edinburgh.
"Any of us living in Edinburgh at that time will remember that everywhere else you went people wanted to talk about the project and crack jokes about – and we shouldn’t forget about that reputational impact. That’s why, as as an administration, we were very quick to offer an apology once Lord Hardie published his report.”
But Cllr Arthur added: “Despite that history, which no-one wants to repeat or justify, we have got to a good place – Edinburgh Trams is Scotland's Public Transport Operator of the Year; in August we managed to carry a million passengers in a single month; and we're looking forward to the plans for North-South trams in the new year to take our city forward.”
Green councillor Chas Booth agreed the project had hurt Edinburgh’s reputation. He said: “Unfortunately tram was a dirty word and towards the tail end of the initial tram phase Edinburgh was renowned for being the city of the tram fiasco. As part of Trams to Newhaven we have taken significant steps forward to learn the lessons and It is absolutely essential to ensure that tram does not become synonym for bad practice, delays to projects and cost overruns.”