Edinburgh council set to sack German tram contractor

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The trams were set to open in Edinburgh next year but have been delayed by at least seven months

By Cara Sulieman

EDINBURGH councils chiefs plan to axe the German firm carrying out work on the city’s troubled tram project.

Council chiefs say they are at the end of their tether after months of delays and projected overspends.

The £545 million project – originally due to finish in August 2011 – promised to bring benefits to the capital but is now seven months behind schedule with no end in sight.

Now they are preparing for a potentially costly legal battle to rid them of the contractors Bilfinger Berger.

Transport convener, Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, said the “ludicrous” position adopted by Bilfinger Berger left the council with no option but to terminate the contract.

“Held to ransom”

If the move goes ahead it is likely to lead to a legal dispute which will see all work grind to a halt and the completion date put back another two or three years – spelling more misery for locals.

But Councillor Mackenzie said it was necessary to “call time” on the dispute with the German contractors which has been going on since February 2009.

He said he was giving them three weeks to changes their position before breach of contract procedures would be enforced by TIE.

Councillor Mackenzie added: “This city will not be held to ransom by this contractor any longer.

“There would be worse things for the project than for this contract to be terminated.

“Week after week I’m told of excessive claims; month after month progress falls behind schedule; time after time they’ve been told a cost-plus deal is not on.

“The people of Edinburgh deserve better.”

The councillor said he had no problems with the other companies in the consortium – Siemens and CAF – but was fed up with the “can’t do” attitude of Bilfinger Berger.

“Ludicrous”

He said: “The utility diversions are 97 per cent complete.

“However, the contractor has insisted that they require an additional 30 months to complete works.

“This is ludicrous.

“Every major infrastructure contract includes normal design development and while we accept that there have been substantial changes to the design, the claims that this contractor are putting in are from the realms of fantasy.

“If I don’t get an acceptable cost and programme soon I won’t be able to recommend the council continues its support for the project with this contractor.

“We are at the brink.

“Personally, I’m prepared for that and I also hope the consortium recognise it as well, but I’m not optimistic.”

The council is now in the position that it may have to pay off the German company or embark on a lengthy legal battle.

David Mackay, chairman of Edinburgh Trams said: “I totally understand Councillor Mackenzie’s position.

“We have been hugely frustrated by the lack of progress in settling this dispute and the subsequent lack of progress on the ground.”

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