Tuesday, 28 April 2009

No tram funding

So, some news of the Edinburgh Tram scheme, and it is not good.

First, line 1B has been abandoned due to the "economic downturn." In business-speak, the line has been "postponed" but the expectation now (as indeed, when the plans were first mooted) is that line 1B will not see the light of day.

Second, after the collapse of these plans, further questions have been raised by Lothians MSPs over the funding for line 1A which is meant to run from Leith to the airport. The SNP's Shirley-Anne Somerville doesn't believe the line will be delivered "on time and on budget" while Tory MSP Gavin Brown suggests there may now be a £6m shortfall because of a deal negotiated for both lines 1A and 1B.

Meanwhile, the guys who are in charge of delivering the whole scheme have been paid nearly £1m in bonuses before a single piece of track has been laid.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. This is a damn fiasco that is worse even than the building of the Scottish Parliament - at least the city wasn't torn up for that vanity excercise.

Have we come too far to call the whole thing off?


Adopted Domain 28 April 2009 at 15:09  

The only reason it's a fiasco is because the SNP have shown no vision, or leadership on this project whatsoever. I've got a lot of sympathy for the poor buggers who have to deliver the project with a divided CEC calling the shots on one side, and stroppy contractors on the other.

Perhaps if the SNP stopped wasting millions of our cash subsidising fishermen and shaving seconds of trunk road journey times, we'd get some decent investment in urban public transport - where most people will benefit.

Malc 28 April 2009 at 15:21  

Wow AD.

I'd suggest that isn't the only reason it is a fiasco. I'll accept that the CEC is making a right arse of delivering, though if you want to assign blame, remember that there are two parties running the administration - and that a) the SNP is the junior party and b) the Lib Dems hold the transport brief.

I'd also suggest that it is unlikely that as many "millions of our cash" subsidising fishermen than has been spent on vanity projects like the tram scheme and the Holyrood Parliament itself.

One final point. Edinburgh's Lothian Buses (an example of your "urban public transport") won UK bus operator of the year honours twice in a row. If it ain't broke...

BSH 28 April 2009 at 16:50  

The buses in Edinburgh are top class compared to Lanarkshire.

Leaves on the line 28 April 2009 at 17:51  

>>One final point. Edinburgh's Lothian Buses (an example of your "urban public transport") won UK bus operator of the year honours twice in a row. If it ain't broke...<<

Ah but, if we aspire to be an independent nation, shouldn't we aspire to have a capital with world-class public transport? Lothian buses are good, but certain routes are now so heavily used that they have become part of the congestion problem.

James 28 April 2009 at 21:11  

I'm with AD. This is pure displacement.

Some people spend half their time in public making noises of reluctant acceptance about the trams and half the time in private briefing against officials and putting spanners in the works.

An administration that agreed with the trams could have delivered it. An administration opposed to the trams would at least have left the door open for a change of local government and for another subsequent administration to see sense.

The current crop of ineffectual and pointless city leaders are pulling in both directions, achieving the cones without the track and the annoyance without the prospect of a good service.

Incidentally, these bonuses mostly cover the period when the scheme was being run half-decently, before the last election. Anyone who's had to put up with the current meddling and incompetence also deserves to be properly paid: I can imagine few more demoralising jobs than trying to deliver an ambitious scheme which half your employers are too daft even to back.

Finally, if SNP councillors think undermining our one shot in the last 50 years at a modern public transport system serves either the city or their electoral prospects they're surely wrong on both counts.

Malc 28 April 2009 at 22:04  

BSH, Leaves on the Line.

They are top class compared to a lot of places. Maybe the routes have gotten congested... but I doubt anyone can remember much of traffic congestion pre-tram Edinburgh.

I'm not arguing that we shouldn't aspire to a capital with world-class public transport. But will trams deliver that?

Also, I've never said that I'm against trams in principle or in Edinburgh. The point I'm making is simply that the manner in which they are currently being delivered isn't living up to your "aspiration" for Edinburgh.

Malc 28 April 2009 at 22:09  


What happened to our cosy consensus?!

Actually, I agree with you. There has been a distinct lack of leadership from the CEC on trams, with neither of the administration parties fully committed to it - the SNP because they were against it to begin with, the Lib Dems because they don't want to be associated with the chaos the works have brought. Which has, ironically, led to further chaos.

I'll disagree on a minor point though. The bonuses are from December 2006 until March this year - predominantly encompassing the period of Lib Dem-SNP administration.

James Two Doctors 28 April 2009 at 22:29  

I'm just testing the limits of that consensus. Seems pretty flexible!

Also, the Evening News says:

They show that TIE employees received total pay awards of £622,000 for the 15-month period from December 2006 to March 2008, and a total of £348,000 for the previous years up to December 2006.Assuming evenly distributed bonuses within those 15 months, that'd be about £600k prior to the May 07 election and about £370k thereafter. Or a meringue?

Susan,  29 April 2009 at 15:37  

Er, as far as I can see the SNP aren't against trams in principle either - they just actually bothered to ask questions and read the business case for this project!

This line we are suffering for is in the wrong place, it won't have a big impact on public transport usage, and it won't do much for the congestion problem. It will create losses for Lothian Buses and actually threaten good public transport services. It will certainly make people have to walk further between stops than they do for the 22 bus - actually perhaps that should be put as a positive for tackling obesity or something.

The tram was a sorry case of being seen to do something that sounds great, rather than do the right thing.

The management of the project is the same management that was put in place by the former Labour administration, and it was always a farce.

The SNP at least had the foresight to predict what would happen - simply because they did their homework rather than be taken in by fluffy words. The idea that this means it's being sabotaged is a piece of nonsense - absolutely nobody is happy about seeing the city like this.

Malc 29 April 2009 at 17:09  


Some good points there. The SNP did research before the 2007 election and realised that the trams were an issue with a lot of opposition locally and opposed it on those grounds more than anything.

But I do agree. I'm not against trams in principle. Indeed, I quite like them - when they have a purpose. And the Edinburgh ones - as I said in the piece - are no more than a vanity project designed to make Edinburgh look modern and exciting. You are right - they are in the wrong place and will not help with the congestion.

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