Tram boss admits project was “doomed” from the start

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Sue Bruce hinted that scrapping the trams may have been an option

TRAM bosses have admitted that the project was “doomed” before it had even begun.

Sue Bruce, an Edinburgh city council chief executive, said that “wildly inaccurate” predictions on cost and time were to blame for the controversial trams fiasco.

Speaking today, the council chief admitted that she had even considered pulling the plug on the project entirely.

And now Mrs Bruce has ordered council officials to submit a “detailed audit trail” of all tram-related documents to aid an upcoming public enquiry.

The former Aberdeen City Council chief executive firmly placed the blame on tram firm Transport Initiaitives Edinburgh (TIE), councillors and officials who made the crucial decisions at the beginning of the project

She said: “I have views of why we had reached where we were at the start of the year and I’d summarise these views as the construction of the contract, management of the contract and the accuracy and clarity of which we forecast delivery of the project- how much and how long- which was wildly inaccurate.”

She added that the tram project was the “dominating factor” in her first six months in the council job.

According to Mrs Bruce, the relationship between TIE and construction consortium Bilfinger Berger was already on the rocks when she arrived in the post.

She set about trying to get the project to a position where there was “a decision either way on what we are doing”- an indication that calling a halt to the project had not been ruled out.

“My first impression was that we were in a fairly bad place with the tram from any perspective: the council, the contractor, the citizen, the taxpayer,” she said.

“I had to make sense of it and make progress. It also struck me that leaving it as it is was not an option.”

She said mediation helped the council and contractor work through the project “line by line,” and eventualy lead them to a position where it was agreed to continue building from the airport to St Andrew Square.

She added that the job to rebuild the city’s reputation was now underway.

“So far, we are working to plan. It is still a project with significant challenges but we know what these technical challenges are and we know that we can sit down and discuss these [with a contractor] and find a way forward.

“The important thing is that, if people want to go on holiday or expand their business, if they search the internet and hit “Edinburgh” all the right reasons have to come up- that it is a seat of government, a world heritage site, the leading city for festivals, with great world-class universities.”

Ruth McKay, chairwoman of the Edinburgh branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, said of Mrs Bruce’s comments about mistakes being made from the outset: “At least it’s honest.

“It’s important businesses are kept well informed and have a voice, and we need to look at how we help businesses in Leith and the whole north of the city who are not now going to benefit from the trams.”

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