Letters: Raising tram bill fears is not scaremongering

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John McLellan has his say on the proposed tram extension in our letters section. But do you agree?

Councillor Adam McVey must be a worried man when his reaction to my column on details of the tram completion programme is to dismiss it as “unsubstantiated scaremongering.”

And it’s pretty desperate stuff when his main criticism is that I didn’t go along to a room where the tram completion business case was available for viewing; no matter that I was present at a detailed briefing on the business case from the officer leading the project. And like the journalist I am, I’ve got a contemporaneous note.

Not only have I read the business case, but had a further opportunity to quiz tram project members, so I think that’s a reasonable basis for pointing out things the public should know as the administration councillors prepare to vote through the £165.2m scheme.

That construction will take three years in which there will be major traffic upheaval is not in dispute.

Nor is it scaremongering to point out that Lothian Buses is being asked to pay £20m over and above the annual dividend it hands the council, when it’s there in black and white. Neither Cllr McVey nor transport convener Lesley Mcinnes deny the money must come from fare-paying passenger because that’s exactly what will happen.

As editor of the Evening News in 2006 I was persuaded to support trams on the back of assurances from senior council figures, so if I was naïve then, perhaps I can forgive Cllr McVey his wide-eyed enthusiasm now.

Cllr McVey can call it scaremongering if he wants, but alarm bells should be clanging about something which isn’t in the business case. We learnt this week that the contracts on which the tenders will be based won’t be finalised until Christmas at the earliest. So when councillors vote next month on whether to start the tendering process, they are being asked to approve something which is incomplete.

Maybe it’s only a matter of tidying up fine legal detail, but it was arguments over contractual detail which derailed Phase One and sent the final bill soaring to £776m.

But maybe that’s just me scaremongering again.

Cllr John McLellan, Craigentinny & Duddingston ward