Tram project faces 1,000 threats from buried pipes

The news has led to fears the project cost could rise again

MORE than 1,000 buried pipes and cables are threatening to bring yet more trouble toEdinburgh’s trams project.

The latest underground threats to the scheme were discovered during a series of tests of the 1.3 mile section of the route between the city’s Haymarket and St Andrew Square.

Costs could soar even higher as tram workers are forced to move dozens of water, gas and electricity mains, as well as overhead cables along the route.

Bosses of the trouble-hit scheme have confirmed a new estimate of 1100 “utility conflicts” along the suggested route.

The figure is double the number Edinburgh councillors were alerted to in a report in August.

Designs will need to be redrawn to work around the cables and pipes in most of the cases, while utilities will need to be physically diverted at around 150 different points.

The extent of the extra work needed has led to fears it could result in the project costs rising above the new £776m project budget agreed by the city’s council.

Councillor Jeremy Balfour, who is leader of the city’s Conservative group, said: “We always said we did not believe the figures and we were always concerned that there would be real problems with the on-street works and that is why we voted for finishing the line at Haymarket.

“There are still lots of risks with this project and we do not know what the final bill will be, so people are rightly concerned and we are concerned.”


The £776m figure resulted in the council having to borrow £231m, but Cllr Balfour believes that more money will still have to be found to complete the project to St Andrew Square.

Sources close to the project insist the number of utility diversions needed is within what they expected and say it can be completed within budget.

The £776m project costs includes £34m set aside as “risk and contingency”.

It is understood the council remains hopeful that the risk fund will prove enough to deal with the cost of utility diversions and other overspends.

One senior council source said: “Currently there are 1100 clashes on-stree from Haymarket toYork Place. But of these, only circa 150 are likely to require diversions. The rest can be designed around so we don’t have to move them.

“It is not that we won’t use our risk allowance, but in terms of the first part of Haymarket we are well within our budget.”

However, the figures are estimates mainly based on drilling bore holes in areas known to contain utilities, and may rise once further work is carried out.

It remains unclear why some of the conflicts were not picked up earlier in the project.

The source added: “Some of these utility diversions should have been diverted in the past but weren’t.”

Councillor Lesley Hinds, who is the transport spokeswoman for the city’s Labour group said: “It was always the concern with theSt Andrew Squareoption that there was more risk involved as there was more disruption on the road and more utlities on the route that may be in conflict.

“It gives a concern that, if there are that many utilities in conflict, have they put enough contingency in for the cost?”