Edinburgh City Council has announced that its plagued Edinburgh trams project is on track and expected to be completed by the most recent estimated date. The detailed progress report claims there’s been substantial progress on the construction, and it could begin operations as much as six months early.
This follows the construction being resumed in April last year after a stand-off with contractors Bilfinger Berger over delays. At the time, the originally estimated £545 million cost of the project was increased and the line was shortened. Instead of ending at the banks of Firth, it will finish in the city centre. Now the overall expenditure for the project is £669 million, while half the £34 million risk allowance has been spent. Just more than £100 million is left, and only one section has been completed – the Gogarburn tram vehicle depot.
Edinburgh City Council says full trial runs are due to start by early 2014. Chief executive Sue Bruce has vowed that everything will be done to improve the planned beginning of passenger services the following summer. The entire project is still running in line with a revised £776 million budget, which was set a year ago when the government took over the scheme. The council is now borrowing millions of pounds for the next 30 years to make up the difference between the original estimate and the new one. It’s expected the final bill will top £1 billion.
Bruce said in the report that the balance left over is adequate to finish the construction of the project on time and on budget. Plans to lease extra trams to other British and European schemes, including the Croydon Tramlink, during the construction period have been unsuccessful or haven’t provided the £2.7 million a year estimated. However, other ideas are in the pipeline.
Councillor Lesley Hinds, the transport convener, says that this positive update shows the great progress that’s been made since the programme was revised. The tram is the second biggest infrastructure project in Scotland, and there have been several challenges along the way. However, she’s very happy that things are moving in the right direction.
Keith Brown, the transport minister, says that Transport Scotland has played a major role in supporting the council and contractors to get the tram project back on track since the new governance deals were put in place. He’s pleased to see the report demonstrates significant progress has been made by everyone involved in the project since last year. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that many people and businesses in the city have been inconvenienced by the work. Everyone involved also owes it to these people to make sure the project is completed by summer 2014.
Despite the good news, former head of Network Rail maintenance and tram critic, says there’s not one part of the project finished anywhere outside of the depot. Anyone can simply walk around the city to see how much work is still needed. He can’t seen any chance of the project being able to operate early, as there wouldn’t be any point in opening a section of it.