‘Lawyer did not advise tram firm over contract cost’, inquiry hears

Steve Bell leaving the tram enquiry after giving evidence.
Steve Bell leaving the tram enquiry after giving evidence.
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A FORMER project director at tram firm TIE has denied claims that he was told the contract for the troubled works would cost £80 million more than the price proposed by the contractors.

Steven Bell, who was tram project director at TIE from January 2008 to October 2011, added he was not aware of anyone else at the firm having been informed of this either.

Mr Bell was giving evidence as the inquiry, chaired by Lord Hardie, yesterday entered its eighth week of public hearings.

He was asked by inquiry counsel Euan Mackenzie QC about earlier evidence from Andrew Fitchie, who was seconded to TIE from law firm DLA Piper.

In his evidence, Mr Fitchie claimed he had told officials at TIE in early December 2007 that the Infraco contract would cost significantly more than the price offered by contractors BBS.

Asked if he remembered being told any information of this kind, Mr Bell responded “absolutely not”.

The inquiry previously heard Mr Fitchie say he advised TIE on how provisions negotiated in Schedule Part 4 of the contract would allow the contractors to demand more money when there were changes.

Mr Fitchie said he advised TIE of this during a meeting, at which he said Steven Bell, Geoff Gilbert, Jim McEwan, Denis Murray and possibly Graeme Bisset were present.

However, Mr Bell told the inquiry that Mr Fitchie had not advised him on increased costs.He said: “I’m not aware of anybody in TIE management that was reported to.

“The first time I heard figures of that scale were in February 2009.”

Mr Bell said that if Mr Fitchie had raised such concerns, it was something he would likely have been aware of. He said this was because “it would have been a significant cost that was different from the values that everybody had been preparing and working through as part of the procurement process”.

Mr Bell, who initially joined TIE as engineering and procurement director in 2006, was also questioned about his experience on light rail projects prior to his arrival at the firm and eventual posting as project director.

The inquiry heard his background was primarily in heavy rail projects, but Mr Bell argued many of his skills were transferable.

Mr Mackenzie asked: “Do you accept that in an ideal world, it would be better for someone filling the post of tram project director to have experience of delivering a tram or light rail scheme?”

He responded: “Yes. In an ideal world.”

Mr Bell will continue his evidence today.