Claim tram workers ‘took advantage’ of TIE team

PIC LISA FERGUSON  Tram inquiry heard evidence over working practices
PIC LISA FERGUSON Tram inquiry heard evidence over working practices
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A FORMER construction director from the Capital’s tram project has claimed the contractors tasked with diverting utilities on the project took advantage of inexperience within their team of TIE counterparts.

Graeme Barclay joined tram firm TIE in March 2007 after being asked to take over the MUDFA [utility diversion] programme.

Mr Barclay told the tram inquiry that when he joined the firm there was confusion within the MUDFA team about the definition of people’s individual roles.

He also said it was clear that there had been a breakdown in the relationship between them and utility contractors Alfred McAlpine Infrastructure Services (AMIS), who were subsequently taken over by Carillion Utility Services (CUS).

Inquiry counsel Jonathan Lake QC asked Mr Barclay about claims in his written submission that AMIS “took advantage” of the TIE team.

In the statement, he said: “I do not know what happened before I arrived, but certainly there was a breakdown of relationships between AMIS and the MUDFA Project Team.

“When I looked at the people that were on the TIE side, they were not contractually experienced and there were people lacking project management experience.

“When I looked at the AMIS/CUS side, these were contractors, commercially and contractually focused, and I felt they actually drove that kind of behaviour. They saw an easy client and they took advantage of the situation.”

Asked to elaborate, Mr Barclay told the inquiry: “The contractor was in my opinion taking advantage of the fact there was an inexperienced team in terms of contract administration and they were manipulating the works to suit themselves.

“They would give the impression they were wanting to start, they were ready to start, and they were then stating that they were in delay.”

Mr Lake asked: “Why would they be in delay?”

“Because they were stating they wanted to start, but we couldn’t start because the design wasn’t ready,” Mr Barclay replied.

Mr Barclay, who was employed by TIE until April 2010, was giving evidence as the inquiry, chaired by Lord Hardie, began its tenth week of public hearings.

In his written submission, he described the contractor as “constantly” approaching TIE for money, resulting in lengthy periods of correspondence between the two parties.

He wrote: “It was evident that we felt that they had never substantiated anything to the point where we thought they merited being paid, other than over the initial design delay, which we settled with them.

“I do not think that there was ever going to be a solution with AMIS. I fully recognise that they would be under pressure to deliver and to recover monies.

“We had known the extent of how much they were out in terms of their bid in comparison with other bidders. It was quite evident that they were pushing to recover money that was their focus all the time.”

He added diverting utilities was always going to be a complex task due to the fact there were upwards of 18 different utilities to contend with.

The inquiry heard records of what lay in the ground were “poor” and that this resulted in them finding roughly twice the number of utilities than had been anticipated.

Ground-penetrating radar was used in an effort to map what was buried, but Mr Barclay said this method was affected by moisture content and so was “not completely reliable”.

The other approach would be that of digging of trial holes, but as this is more invasive he said doing so along the whole route would have been “wholly impractical”.

The inquiry also heard from Andrew Malkin, who was employed by AMIS as project director for MUDFA in November 2006.

Mr Malkin, who stayed at the firm for 18 months, described being “extremely disappointed” at completed designs not being available at the start of the process, saying he had to wait about three or four months for the first batch to be presented to him in a box.

In his witness statement, he also described TIE’s MUDFA team as being “disengaged” in the pre-construction phase.

He said that following Mr Barclay’s arrival things initially improved, but that tensions proceeded to grow over time and that the relationship between TIE and AMIS became “alienated”.

He wrote: “Graeme Barclay had a tendency to deal with matters in an abrupt and direct way which did not suit everyone in the AMIS MUDFA team, and resulted in people choosing to become distant and withdrawn at times.”

florence.snead@jpress.co.uk