Tram contract lawyers hired for new Forth bridge project

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The law firm that helped draw up the contract for Edinburgh’s embattled tram project has been doing legal work for the replacement Forth crossing, it emerged today.

Transport Scotland confirmed it has paid around £1.9 million to DLA Piper, which has faced criticism for its role in drawing up the tram contract with German firm Bilfinger Berger.

Government ministers have been urged to do all they can to ensure any mistakes made with the tram contract have not been repeated on the £1.6 billion new Forth crossing.

City leaders have admitted the tram project has “not stood up” to the lengthy adjudication process between the contractor and TIE and are even considering legal action against law firms including DLA to cover losses it has suffered through the adjudication process.

Councillor Lesley Hinds, transport spokeswoman for the Labour group on the city council, said: “I hope the Scottish Government has checked out any company it works with, particularly if they have a background in the tram project, to make sure the same mistakes are not being made on the biggest construction project in the country.

“Although there has not been a public inquiry yet, most people say one of the main mistakes was with the contract, so you have to worry that the same company that was involved with the tram project is now involved with the Forth bridge, and I would urge the Scottish Government and ministers to make sure they ask the right questions.”

Since 2008, DLA has been paid more than £2.6m by TIE for its work on the tram project.

Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, the city’s transport leader, previously said he had “concerns” with the way lawyers had drafted the tram project, amid fears it undermined the project from the start, with tram firm TIE losing a series of costly adjudications to Bilfinger.

When asked about possible legal action, he said today: “There are legal disputes and sometimes you are successful, sometimes you are not. But anything about that is for our director of corporate governance to answer.

“My observation was the contract has not stood up well to the dispute process and I stand by that.”

When asked about Transport Scotland’s work with DLA, he said: “Transport Scotland has gone through the proper process of procurement for a legal firm. I’m sure other legal firms would have wanted that contract but you have to assume that DLA have won the contract fair and square.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “DLA Piper was awarded a contract in March 2009 to supply legal services connected to the procurement of the Forth Replacement Crossing project. This contract was procured through the Scottish Government framework agreement for the provision of legal services.

“Following the conclusion of the FRC procurement process, DLA Piper’s involvement is now largely complete.”

Nobody at DLA Piper was available to comment.