Edinburgh trams: Contractors admit concrete blunder

Problems on Shandwick Place have dealt a blow to any hopes of having trams running by Christmas. Picture: Colin Hattersley
Problems on Shandwick Place have dealt a blow to any hopes of having trams running by Christmas. Picture: Colin Hattersley
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BLUNDERING workmen have derailed the trams project by cracking vital concrete sleepers – setting back the clearance of vital roadworks and dealing a blow to any notion of the trains running by Christmas.

An original estimate of four weeks to fix a concrete problem between Haymarket and Shandwick Place is now likely to take in excess of four months, leaked e-mails have revealed.

It is understood the delays have occurred after concrete sleepers used to stabilise the tracks were cracked during drilling to remove the rest of the incorrectly laid concrete.

The bungle raises questions about the ability to hit the December deadline the council is believed to have been privately working towards.

The Evening News first reported in late May that more than 150 metres of concrete would need to be relaid through the West End after several areas failed quality assurance tests. The stretch of route affected is believed to be closer to 500m.

In a detailed e-mail, Edinburgh Trams interface manager Alasdair Sim said the “target” was to complete repair works at Haymarket by September. He said: “As work has progressed, unfortunately some unforeseen items have emerged and as a result this has set the programme back. The remaining rail remedial [concrete] works are now targeted for completion in Shandwick Place during the course of August. The remedial works at Haymarket Junction are targeted to be completed during September.”

Contractors still have to commission the underground cabling, install traffic signals, complete the tram stop, and finish road lining and anti-skid surfacing along the route from Princes Street to Haymarket.

Mr Sim said: “In regard to the opening up of the roads to traffic, all of these items need to be complete and in place.

“We do not yet have a specific opening date for the return of traffic to the section between Haymarket and Princes Street, so I cannot provide more detail at this point other than to say that we are targeting to have traffic back to full use in these areas during October.”

In April, city transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said her target was to have Edinburgh’s streets clear of all tram-related works by September – a goal that has now been dashed by the contractor errors.

Michael Apter, chairman for the West End Association, said any hopes of the £776 million tram system starting in time for Christmas were now gone because of the latest “charade”.

He said: “There was a lot of optimism at Easter and the back of Easter about trams running as early as autumn. It was only with the discovery of these errors that has kicked that back.

“I don’t think anyone’s expecting to see them until the new year now. Having them running for Christmas would have been a great success. It would have gone down very well with ratepayers and voters.”

Timetable in the offing

A revised launch date for Edinburgh’s troubled trams project is poised to be announced next month.

Council chiefs have consistently shied away from publicly naming a date for the eight-mile route stretching from York Place to Edinburgh Airport to go live, although a Christmas launch was considered speculation, with most expecting a start date in summer 2014.

The latest correspondence revealed that council transport chiefs intend to announce the operational start date for the trams during September. Test runs still need to be completed and mandatory safety certificates issued.

A council spokesman said in an official statement: “Completion of remedial works is taking longer than initially estimated, but this will not impact upon the overall timeframe.”