As Edinburgh’s troubled tram project finally enters service, Alex Salmond announces a new public inquiry that will closely scrutinise the project

Alex Salmond has announced that the Scottish Government intends to launch a public inquiry into Edinburgh troubled tram project later this year.

The Scottish first minister announced the plans as the city’s trams finally entered service between the airport and York Place in Edinburgh city centre on May 31, several years behind schedule, significantly over budget and on a truncated network.

During first minister’s questions in the Scottish Parliament, Salmond said that he was sure that everyone in Scotland will be delighted to see that trams are fully operational and carrying passengers.

He continued: “We cannot lose sight of the considerable public concern over the conduct of the project, the disruption it has caused to households and businesses in the city of Edinburgh,” said Salmond.

He said the Scottish cabinet had agreed to establish a judge-led public inquiry in the trams to explore “why the project occurred significant overruns in terms of cost and timing, requiring in particular a considerable reduction in the original scope.”

He added: “It is important that there are lessons to be learnt from the conduct of the Edinburgh trams project.”

Although the inquiry will have no powers to compel witnesses to either attend or co-operate, it is hoped that it will receive co-operation from councillors and officials from the former council-owned tram promoter Transport Initiatives Edinburgh, as well as the project’s contractors, led by Bilfinger Berger and Siemens.

Salmond said that he had stopped short of ordering a full-scale public inquiry, noting that he has opted for a non-statutory route due to timescales and the City of Edinburgh Council’s promise to fully co-operate with the inquiry.

It is not known as yet when the inquiry will commence work or when it will report on its findings. It is expected that Scottish transport minister Keith Brown will provide a statement to the Scottish Parliament on these details before the summer recess.

Meanwhile, tram operator Transport for Edinburgh announced that over 130,000 passengers had been carried on services during the first week of operation.

“We’ve carried a lot of passengers this week but what pleases me most is that feedback about our service has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Edinburgh Trams general manager Tom Norris. “There have been challenging moments but I’m happy with the way things have been handled and we can be very confident going forward.

“Passenger numbers will fluctuate but as we head into summer and to the festival season there’s no reason not to be positive. The team have enjoyed the first week, things are bedding in well and we’re delighted that Edinburgh Trams is now starting to become part of Edinburgh life.”

 

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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