Tram construction contract ‘ridiculous’

The tram inquiry is hearing two days of closing submissions before Lord Hardie goes off to write his report.
The tram inquiry is hearing two days of closing submissions before Lord Hardie goes off to write his report.
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THE contract for construction of Edinburgh’s tramline was “ridiculous” and “should never have been made”, the inquiry into the troubled project has been told.

On the first of two days of summing up, lawyer Douglas Fairley QC borrowed the words of President Donald Trump about the Iran nuclear deal to describe the agreement between contractors Bilfinger Berger and the city council and its tram firm TIE.

He said it allowed the contractor to hold the council and TIE to ransom.

And he accused the contractor of being “determined to disrupt and extort”.

Mr Fairley, representing various ex-employees of TIE, also told the inquiry some councillors could “simply not be trusted” to keep confidential information to themselves.

And he said the appointment of Richard Jeffrey as TIE chief executive - shortly after the resolution of the Princes Street dispute which had halted construction work - was like “the arrival of the first Polish independent parachute brigade on the fifth day of the Battle of Arnhem under heavy mortar and machine gun fire”.

Mr Fairley also urged inquiry chairman Lord Hardie to recommend any extension of the tramline should adopt a different strategy for preparation works after delays in diverting underground utility pipes and cables were blamed for holding up construction.

He said a “bow wave” strategy - where contractors working on utility diversions move slightly ahead of the construction team - would be better than the “swept path” approach, where all diversions are meant to be completed before construction begins.

Earlier, Garry Borland QC, for Bilfinger, had said the utility diversion delays were the critical delaying factor throughout the project.

And he claimed evidence heard at the inquiry showed TIE staff and advisers understood the terms of the contract would mean claims by Bilfinger for additional payments as soon as it had been signed.