Saturday, 13 March 2010

Who is to blame for Edinburgh Tram Fiasco?

I was reading Steve Bargeton’s political diary in the Dundee Courier where I noted with interest his summation of the Edinburgh tram fiasco. I was rather amused because I had also been reading Kezia Dugdale’s blog on the same subject. It seems that the cost and time overruns are going to be monumental.

If we all remember correctly it was the SNP’s manifesto pledge to cancel this great white elephant: a pledge that they tried to implement after their election in May 2007. The opposition parties and Margo MacDonald cried foul. Labour, smarting from the bloody nose that they had just received from the Scottish electorate, were determined to embarrass the new First Minister and so they concerted a campaign to keep the project alive and whipped up a media furore full of deprived people of Edinburgh, etc, etc.

They succeeded in getting the project passed with only the SNP saying that they would rue the day. John Swinney said ‘fine, have your trams but we will have Audit Scotland look at the business plan’. They did and AS said that the plans were robust. So the Scottish Government were forced to give the scheme the required £500 million (one sixtieth of the entire Scottish budget for a year) with the proviso that the City of Edinburgh would have to make up any shortfall.

I am assuming that the Labour administration in Edinburgh up to May 2007 had wanted the project to go ahead and it seemed that the new Lib Dem/SNP one did as well, as they all voted for it.

It seems clear to me that the SNP’s manifesto pledge was based on the fact that the scheme was not a very good one. It benefits only a potential 17% of Edinburgh’s residents and simply replaces a bus route running through the streets and all that for 545 million quid. That does not seem like good value for money to me, you could have got a lot of extra busses for that.

Now as is witnessed on Ms Dugdale’s blog the Labour party, and I suppose the other Unionistas who voted for it, are looking for someone to blame now that cost are overrunning to the tune of £100 million and we won’t see a tram for 30 extra months, until 2014.

Guess who they are hoping to pin the blame on? You got it: the SNP, and why? Because apparently the SNP voted for it in Edinburgh City Hall... and so they must be to blame as they are in power now. How much ground work was done prior to 2007? Well, it goes all the way back to the time of the Great Helmsman in 1999 when a plan to build a line along Princes Street and Leith Walk to Newhaven pier was unveiled by Edinburgh City Council, Lothian and Edinburgh Enterprise and the New Edinburgh Tramways Company (NET). In May 2004, the 15-year operating contract for Edinburgh Trams was awarded to Transdev. Trading as Transdev Edinburgh Tram Ltd, the transport company was to operate and maintain the tram network, and support the project planning.

And finally the bill was passed by the Labour/Lib Dem Executive in 2006.The audit Scotland report did pass the scheme as financially sound in 2007 but it was not, as Ms Dugdale claims, on time at that point, because it was not until 25 October, 2007 that Edinburgh City Council gave approval to the final business case.

Approval was given by the Council on 22 December, 2007 for TIE to sign contracts with CAF for the supply of the vehicles and BBS (a consortium of Siemens and Bilfinger Berger) for the design, construction and building of the network. Contract negotiations were concluded in April 2008 with construction of the network commencing in June 2008. So not a sod was actually turned until 2008.

Mr Bargeton’s article lays the blame for this fiasco solely with the Unionist parties and Margo MacDonald. However, I am prepared to say that some should indeed lie with the SNP. Not with the SNP Government that never wanted this appalling fiasco to take place in the first place but with the SNP group in Edinburgh for jumping into bed with the Lib Dems in order to get their hands on the keys to the city chambers.

An alliance between Unionists and Nationalist just does not seem to work. It did not in Aberdeen and it does not in Edinburgh. All that it allows is for people like Kezia Dugdale to blame the SNP for everything.


  1. There was a good report in the Edinburgh Evening News last week about the tram network. Residents on the route will have to ask permission before cleaning their windows in case they get electrocuted. And 9 residents are being taken to court for refusing permission for the council to hang cables onto their houses. Oh and the cable posts in Princes Street will be 20 feet high. Best scrapping the fiasco now before it costs £1Bn. New labour love their vanity projects but it's going to cost council tax payers in Edinburgh a fortune.

    This video was funny...

  2. The SNP are solely to blame them and nobody else
    In fact the snp deserve one of these

  3. What you also forgot to mention was that the £500ml this fiasco cost was to be set aside for the much needed upgrade of the A9. As was said at the time no one died waiting for the 22 bus in Edinburgh, but people will continue to die on the A9.

    This is the unionist parties trying to re write history. When you see or hear any rubbish from their supporters ask them how their party voted in parliament for the trams. That is there for ever and a day on the record.

    The other unionists followed Labour in voting for this fiasco. Labour solely because they were beaten at Holyrood, and it was the first indication of the many that followed of toys out of the pram.

    The Courier also show how two faced they are on this issue. This week Bargeton properly laying the blame where it lies with the unionist parties, last week The Courier had a photo of a tory MSP on a bridge on the A9 moaning about a lack of upgrades. The Courier of course did not point out in the article how this hypocrite voted on the tram fiasco.

  4. Great comment Dubbie and more people need to realise what was sacrificed. Of course no labour, libdem or tory voters drive north of Perth so they weren't interested.

    The Courier aren't too bad a reporting fairly these days but they are still tory and very true blue.

  5. Thanks for that annon, yes it is a vanity project for Labour and now we are getting the sour grapes cast at the SNP. It is going to be the SNP's fault no matter what. I don't think it can be scrapped now as so much has already been sunk into it.

  6. Yes, yes, Mr MixedPickle we knew that you would agree that the SNP are to blame after all the SNP are to blame for the sky being blue and for causing Gordon to have a greet. Talking about that wont you join me for a weep?

  7. Thanks for mentioning that Dubbie, there was actually so much to say that I had to cut the thing down in order not to bore everybody to death witha thing the size of the edinburgh telephone directory.

    DCTs to be fair have always been a Tory organ and they don't really try to hide that. The Tories were also very keen on the trams as I recall.

  8. SR Tavish Scott has to drive up the A9 on the way home to Shetland and I am sure that he votes Lib Dem: so thats one at least.

  9. Good post Munguin.

    I did read Dugdale's post but it was a tad tedious and full of whines about the SNP so I got bored. Yours is much better written.

    She seemed to think that the MSP concerned was just acting as a face and a mouthpiece for the residents... Funny that. I thought that's what MSPs were supposed to do.

    No point in me commenting there: she doesn't allow my posts.

    As I see it, the SNP wanted it stopped. Labour voted for it (on the basis that they would vote against oxygen being supplied to Scotland if the SNP voted FOR it ...) Margo voted for that kind of money being spent in her constituency, God only knows why the Liberals or the Tories voted for it... they probably aren’t sure themselves... and..... because a few SNP people voted for it on Edinburgh Council, it's all the SNP's fault....

    God what are they drinking?

    I also noted that Dugdale says that they should stop belly aching and do something.... What?

    Would she like to suggest what the government can do?

    Finally, I'd like to ask why it is that when government and councils sign up to these contracts, they don't have some sort of penalty clauses built in.... If the cost goes up the company takes it; if it's not on time the company has to pay a penalty... That's what private companies do, so why do councils let themselves get stuffed like this?

  10. Thanks Tris. I can't imagine why Ms D would delete your comments they are usually so reasonable. She often deletes mine but I have to admit that mine are not so reasonable. She often deletes my comments but her censorship policy seems to be a bit all over the shop. She is not fond of me pointing out that I think her blog is simply a vehicle to propel her to the top of the Lothian list for MSPs. She was 4rth last time, piped to the post by that great republican Lord from the county of Shropshire (nee Cumnock) his gracious Baron Foulkes. I understand that it is supposed to be the best Labour blog in Scotland getting a massive five public votes which is strange as you are lucky to get one post a week and she never answers the comments. In the interests of impartiality the best SNP blog was SNP tactical voting with a very respectable 57 public votes.

    Maybe because we both write this blog she thinks we are one in the same person. Just for the record we are not.

    I find it amazing that after the great nosed chief of Dover House told all in sundry that the SNP don't count and are irrelevant they all (I mean the Labour clique in Holyrood) make such a huge fuss. Ms Dugdale for example concentrates her fire on the SNP and refuses to answer me when I ask why she does that when the SNP are of no consequence. So far no answer.

    Yes the SNP wanted it stopped and indeed it was a manifesto pledge. Like all the other manifesto pledges one that they tried to carry out but were thwarted by Labour and the Unionists (and in this case Margo MacDonald).

    It was Edinburgh Council that signed the contracts in I think October 2007 (its in the piece) so from May to October 2007 the SNP were half in charge in Edinburgh. But I would imagine that for a £545 million contract much more than 5 months work would have been required in their preparation, don’t you? I have no idea why these things are always so off kilter but that does not always have to be the case. In London the Docklands Light Railway completed its extensions to Lewisham and to Arsenal on budget and ahead of time. A shockingly embarrassing example of good practice that should have every body involved with the Edinburgh tram fiasco hanging their head in shame.