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Edinburgh News 2011

12 December 2011: First Day Outside the Gate
21 October 2011: Signifiant Arrival
30 September 2011: Return to "Normal"
26 August 2011: Council Insanity!
5 July 2011: Tense Times
15 May 2011: Signs of Spring?
26 April 2011: Video of LRTA Council Visit to Edinburgh
4 April 2011: TIE Publishes New Trams Facts Leaflet
21 March 2011: Progress on an Edinburgh Tram; New Chairman for TIE/TEL, Audit Scotland report published, Mediation.
18 January 2011: New Year

12 December 2011: First Day Outside the Gate

Thanks to George Broom for the above photograph

On the 12th December at around 14:00 hrs one of the LRTA members spotted a tram being manoeuvred out of the depot gate by a shunter vehicle and shortly afterwards it was moving by power collected from its pantograph. As promised by Mr A Richards last February, test running has started before Christmas 2011. The diagram below was published by TIE in October, showing the track on which testing and intensive shake-down running will take place to gain experience.

Meanwhile civil engineering work continues along the remaining sections of the (much reduced) route. Although work along Princes Street has been suspended for the annual New Year activities. Edinburgh Trams has published a full timetable of traffic orders for planned street closures and diversions for the next two years. Hopefully after the intervention of Mrs Sue Bruce, CEO of City of Edinburgh Council, and now with the backing of the Scottish Government, the timetable has a better chance of being adhered to than has been the experience in the past. The scheduled completion date has now been quoted as late summer 2014.

21 October 2011: Signifiant Arrival

Thanks to TIE for the above photograph

On Monday 17th October the first tram vehicle was delivered in three parts to the Gogar Depot, having made the journey from Irun via IJmuiden and Newcastle. It was railed, and assembled inside, to be followed on the 19th by the tram stored in Broxburn. Now there are two vehicles stabled in the depot being readied for testrunning. It had been announced on the Edinburgh Trams website that the overhead wire in the depot area would be energised as from the 11th October, and the testrunning area between the Gogar Roundabout and towards the Royal Bank bridge from the 29th November, with test running scheduled to start on 2nd December after initially test running within the depot area.

Temporary crossing for the private road to Castle Gogar, with the RBS bridge span in the background.
These tracks are scheduled to have grass between them. The Gogarburn grounds used to house a Lothian Health
Board mental hospital, but were sold to RBS to build their world headquarters, which provided an office for Sir Fred Goodwin.

At the time of the photograph the tracks within the depot area (within the green fence) should be energised,
but the track leading off to the right past the Gogar Roundabout is still being laid, and waiting to be embedded
in more concrete.

View from the bridge off the Gogar Roundabout leading to the road down to the depot, and the planned railway
station and Edinburgh International Gateway tram stop.

Substantial earthworks are now being carried out on the other side of the Gogar Roundabout and through the Gyle business estate. It is clear that the City of Edinburgh's new Chief Executive, Mrs Bruce, has had a significant influence in getting a settlement of the tram project disputes. Further utility diversion work is also being planned in the city centre. It has been rumoured that the Transport Secretary, Mr Keith Brown, is to visit the depot in the near future. Hopefully that might render the government more favourable towards the trams.

30 September 2011: Return to "Normal"

The recent events with the Edinburgh Tram Project show just how much of a political football the project has become. To some extent this is not surprising, as even with Scotland being one third of the UK land mass, the Scottish Government (SG) receives only one tenth of the appropriate budget, and there is much demand for transport improvements throughout the country, hence strong feelings arise when one project absorbs such a large part of the budget, particularly when the SG has been denied borrowing powers.

Following the decision by City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) on 26th August to adopt the Tory-backed Labour motion, to run line 1 from the airport only to Haymarket, the SG threatened to withhold the remaining £72 million on the grounds of a "change of project scope". This resulted in a special CEC meeting called for 2nd September to reconsider the earlier decision. Cllr Cardownie led the SNP group with an impressive and well argued speech, justifying the group's U-turn (to benefit the city) and gave support to the LibDem motion rather than abstain, so the motion was carried to take the line to St Andrew Square. Labour still proposed the Haymarket amendment and the Tories opted for complete cancellation of the project. The off-road part of the line will be at a fixed cost, but where tracks need laid on the road, contingencies will still have to be allowed for, depending on the problems presenting at the time of excavation. Funding sources still needed to be finalised, and this was to be done by the start of the Edinburgh Autumn holiday weekend (17th Sept). Most inconsiderately, negotiations between the Chief Executive, Sue Bruce and the SG did not finish until the LRTA members were gathering in The Hague for the AGM. Fortunately all was settled, so funding is in place for construction to proceed to completion between the airport and St Andrew Square (reversing at York Place).

The display of brinkmanship, following Treasury Secretary John Swinney's instruction a year ago to Edinburgh SNP councillors not to oppose the tram project, might lend credence to the concept of letting the Unionist parties create the mess that the project had become, and in the run-up to the council elections in May 2012 portray the SNP as the shining knight coming with a rescue package for the project.
Cynical . . . ?
Meanwhile, Transport Scotland is to take an active interest in the project, something many felt should have been done earlier, and TIE has been officially disbanded, with its project management task taken over by consultants Turner and Townsend. Many TIE staff had already left the organisation.

An immediate increase in activity has been noted. Apart from at Haymarket station, there is visible progress at the Gogar Depot area.

While the tracks passing the depot will be rail exposed on concrete bed (hopefully with sleeper alignment improved), the track to the west, towards the RBS bridge will be grassed, although laid on concrete foundations.

The concrete foundations should be an item for the forthcoming inquiry. During the AGM in The Hague it was noticed that rather than track being laid on a foundation of concrete, with the sleepers set in more concrete, despite the very soft ground, the tracks were laid in compacted sand. The heavy concrete approach will surely have had cost implications in the Edinburgh project.

On the 17th September, Princes Street was again closed for ten months for remedial work to the road surface to repair the damage done by the average load of 400 buses per hour. Contrary to reports in the press, the tracks are not to be replaced, but only the road surface and filler between the track and road surface. The photographs below taken on 30th September show much of the damaged material already removed, and stacked to the side like peat cuttings.

26 August 2011: Council Insanity!

At the full council meeting of City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) the illogical and economically unviable decision was taken to construct the line only from the airport to Haymarket, instead of St Andrew Square, as was previously (30th June) decided was the only sensible option. Deputations had been heard from drivers' union representatives of Lothian Buses and the Chamber of Commerce, in favour of terminating at Haymarket and St Andrew Square respectively. The economics were explained, approx. £700million for the Haymarket option, with guaranteed annual operating loss of £4 million, versus £776 million and an operating profit for the St Andrew Square option. Bizarrely the guaranteed loss option won, which was the Labour amendment supported by the Tories, and the LibDem option, supported by the Greens lost out. The SNP abstained citing as their reason not wanting to be associated with the poor management of the project. After the outcome of the vote Mr J Carson, who stood as an anti-tram candidate at a recent council by-election, and whose CV includes project management on the highly overbudget and many years delayed Dutch High Speed Line, was seen celebrating with the Lothian Buses union reps. Do Lothian Buses look forward to the £4 million subsidy they will need to provide for the trams? Would they not rather support a proper integrated transport system taking advantage of each mode's strengths? The remit for Turner and Townsend will also suddenly have changed with this CEC decision, and what cost implications will that have?

This is probably the worst possible outcome for the city and citizens of Edinburgh. Will the planned repairs of bus damage to Princes Street take place or will the tracks be lifted, ensuring extra costs and months of disruption with nothing to show at the end, except bus congestion in the city centre? There will be cancellation fees, as the construction consortium will have started to prepare for continued work on the project. Labour Transport spokesperson Councillor Lesley Hinds's myopic amendment will cost the city dearly.

Some track-laying has started at Haymarket, but the line as now proposed means there will no street running section.

Meanwhile, Mr A Brotchie caught these forlorn vehicles waiting patiently . . . at Irun in the Basque country.

More upbeat is the report on Edinburgh horse tram 23, now stored at the Vintage Bus Museum, with thanks to Alan Brotchie for these photographs, and thanks to Douglas Scoular for his woodwork.

More pictures, owned by Stuart Montgomery, are available at this flickr link.

5 July 2011: Tense Times

It was reported in the press that four more senior staff are resigning from TIE, as well as the CEO Richard Jeffrey and Mandy Haeburn-Little, Director of Communications. The last post has always been controversial as the encumbant earned more than the First Minister and received bonuses, for what appeared to be very little achievement. The CEO's resignation seems to conform to a standard two-year tenure as was the case with four previous CEOs. It has been suggested that Vic Emery's style of management is much more consensual, and this has already led to better relationships with the construction consortium, and hence the uptake of work.

At the full Council meeting on the 30th June, lasting five hours, three options had been offered for debate at different cost estimates,

(1) £740 million - to scrap the whole scheme.
(2) £700 million - complete the line from the airport to Haymarket.
(3) £770 million - complete the line from the airport to St Andrew Square.

Additionally, the SNP group proposed a referendum so that Edinburgh council tax payers would vote whether to scrap the scheme. This was after the Edinburgh Evening News had surveyed its "contributers" and found that 78.6% were in favour of abandoning the project. This proposal was rejected.

Voting was entirely along party lines rather than any logical thought being given to the facts, and fortunately option 3 - to construct the line from the airport to St Andrew Square was chosen. However, this is not yet the final state, because for this council meeting, as with previous council meetings, the costs were considered to be too rough, and another report has been demanded for 25th August with "more precise fixed costs". It is difficult to understand how a major civil engineering project such as this can have its costs fixed to the extent demanded. No such demands were made on the 5 mile M74 extension, which was opened three years late and three times over budget at £692 million, although it was claimed to be under budget and ahead of schedule. It probably depends on when the baseline is determined.

There could still be further threats to the project, as May 2012 council elections will be held, and as the LibDem star is definitely on the wane, a council hostile to the trams is likely to emerge next May. However, the Scottish Government has become more pragmatic, seeing Edinburgh's and Scotland's reputations on the line now that the project has come as far as it has. Even the pro-SNP media are not showing 100% anti-tram sentiments. Although there is a very silly printing shop near Haymarket.

A more positive tram project continues with the restoration of Horse Tram 23. As Lothian Buses are redeveloping their Longstone Garage, alternative accommodation has had to be found, and the tram was moved in the middle of May to the Lathalmond Vintage Bus Museum and volunteers continue to work. From the photographs below, and comparing these with the "garden shed" phase, progress is more promising than the City's electric tram infrastructure project.

15 May 2011: Signs of Spring?

News has been given by both TIE and the Construction Consortium of a "truce" in the dispute. The good news is that the road surface in Princes Street will be repaired having sufferred from the effects of 400 bus movements per hour, but the bad news is that the road will be closed for long periods to traffic, raising again much public ill-feeling towards the project. Construction will also resume along the route to the West of the city. Alistair Richards had earlier expressed the hope at an LRTA meeting that this would allow a section of test-track to be available to the vehicles, to test their operational performance over time. The threats of legal actions have subsided, but the additional costs of the project still need to be identified and will be debated by the City Council on Monday, 16th May. It would be a relief if that were indeed a constructive debate and not an ill-tempered football match. In the Scottish Government elections on 5th May the harshest critic of the project did not win her constituency seat (the only Edinburgh seat which did not go SNP) and because of the constituency seats landslide for the SNP, she also missed out on the regional top-up list for Lothian. However, plenty other MSPs still need educated on the advantages of trams as the main component of the solution to congestion and a cleaner environment. It was disappointing that the Scottish Green Party had joined the others in proclaiming "Not a penny more" for the project just before the election.

While the construction dispute put a complete hold on everything, work had continued at the Gogar Depot, and a number of views is available of the depot site as of early May.

26 April 2011: Video of LRTA Council Visit to Edinburgh

The LRTA council held one of its zonal meetings (comprising Scotland and the North of England) in Edinburgh on 30th March. The meeting, held in TIE's offices, was well attended by members from throughout the area, obviously hoping to hear some good news on progress. Unfortunately, silence prevailed on this subject, and Scotland still remains one of the few European countries whose capital city does not have a modern clean transport system.

The visiting council members were taken on a tour of the Gogar Depot still under construction, as shown in this video, which is available from the TIE website.

4 April 2011: TIE Publishes New Trams Facts Leaflet

While Tram Facts 5 re-iterates many of the points raised in the past, and is available both in paper form and as a PDF from their website it is noticeable that it states quite clearly that line 1 will run between the airport and Newhaven. It also states that there will be 27 vehicles, while there are press reports that some may be leased to Croydon while there is a surplus for a shortened (incrementally introduced) line between the airport and St Andrew Square (or even Haymarket). The leaflet is available here in JPEG format.

Meantime there is no news from the mediation talks.

21 March 2011: Progress on an Edinburgh Tram

The tram concerned has no involvement from TIE, Transport Scotland, or relevance to the new project. However, it is a restoration project of an original Horse Tram from 1885, and shows the determination and quality of workmanship which would be good to see on Auld Reekie's streets with another tram project. Thanks to Alan Brotchie and his associates for the Before and After photographs.

New Chairman for TIE/TEL.

Mr Vic Emery has been appointed Chair of TIE/TEL for the next three years, taking over as from the 9th February. He has a background in major engineering and construction projects from BAE Systems, and claims experience in negotiation, motivation and partnership working - much needed qualities for Auld Reekie's tram project.

Audit Scotland report published.

On 2nd February Audit Scotland issued its 44-page interim report on the Edinburgh Tram Project, available in PDF format. The conclusions were felt to be fairly neutral (whitewash?), but there were suspicions that only TIE was consulted, and not the construction consortium. Transport Scotland, the government agency, was recommended to take a more active role on the project, especially as it has the responsibility of approving the £500 million of taxpayers' funding for the project.


At a recent talk to the LRTA, Alistair Richards confirmed his continuing belief in the project, particularly with regard to the CAF vehicles, and their performance, and the mechanical engineering aspects of the project. It was also stated that co-operation and relationships between different parties were much healthier on the Gogar depot site than elsewhere, which was the reason that progress was being made, both inside the building with engineering maintenance equipment about to be installed, and outside, with track and bridge work.

The mediation procedure chaired by an independent mediator, started on 8th March, is rumoured to have finished/ended in a deadlock/suspended until after the parliamentary election.It is clear that the trams have become a political football.

Given the record of the three opposition parties in parliament indicating that party politics play a more important role than benefit to the country (eg the alcohol minimum pricing bill, the higher hypermarket business rates to counter the economic cuts, and the releases from Wikileaks), the idea is almost credible that with Labour councillors on the board of TIE there has been a deliberate holding back of agreements so that the project's successful completion would not take place during the SNP government's first term of office. The hopes raised at the council meeting of 18th December 2010 at which mediation was urged, and Finance Secretary John Swinney's determination to seek other sources of funding and his instruction to Edinburgh's SNP councillors to cease their opposition to the project seem to have produced no tangible results.

18 January 2011: New Year

A Guid New Year, to an' an a'
Sentiments not readily associated with our City's tram project,
An' mony may ye see
begins to sound more likely, before we will see trams running!

After the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) meeting on the 16th December, where the agreement was announced that the two quarelling sides (TIE and the construction consortium (BSC)) would accept an independent mediator, hopes were dashed when TIE refused to accept any Scottish based mediator. Now that a mediator has been identified, talks about mediation will not start until March. A short press release states that talks should be completed by mid-March. TIE stated that this statement was only released to prevent further speculation, and dismiss for example, rumours it was trying to stall mediation talks until after the Parliamentary elections on 5th May. No more statements would be released - TIE has acquired a reputation of public relations along the generosity lines of the government in P'yƓng Yang, while BSC is prevented contractually from making public statements. The council meeting was for the most part a disappointing display of sterile Westminster style yaboo politicking betwen the five party groups. But then the revised busines case, which should have shown the details for a (further) truncated line, between the airport and only St Andrew Square in the city centre, was mainly a rehash of the original business case, and found to be very unsatisfactory by most councillors. Naturally there was a call for a proper revised business case.

Unfortunately most tram critics forget (or choose to ignore) that advantages cannot be expressed in purely immediate capital and revenue costs, but that environmental, convenience, comfort and longevity (of vehicles, roads and people) should also be factored in. The damage done by buses to the roads is paid through the council tax, and at most bus stops such thrust-damage is evident.

Ironically, in early January, Danish Gehl Architects looking at the centre of Edinburgh's environment described Princes Street as a bus station, with over 400 bus movements an hour. This while there are still those who complain that the tram's overhead wires will obscure tourists' views of the castle, and oil prices are approaching $100 a barrel.

Another item discussed at the council meeting was the proposal to set up Transport Edinburgh Ltd (TEL), and campaigned against by Lothian Buses supporters. There was tentative agreement that this idea would be abandoned, and Lothian Buses would take over the running of the trams. But then the dead hand of Lothian Buses would allow their inefficient complacency to set in and not take full advantage of the opportunities offered by a tram network. Bus proponents always suggest that eco-friendly vehicles would be cheaper than a tram network, ignoring the fact that more buses cause more congestion, delays and road damage.

The construction aspect of the project is now like a neglected fire, with the only glowing ember being the continuing construction of the Gogar Depot, and all other construction work at a standstill.

The tram vehicle which spent the summer in Princes Street was moved to an industrial site outwith the city until probably April when the depot should be ready to receive all the vehicles.

There has been widespread criticism of the salaries paid to some of the senior staff at TIE. The most criticised aspect has been the fact that high bonuses have been paid, which would normally be linked to achievement. This has been more bad PR for the whole tram project, already associated with lack of achievement. We now need to wait to see what the new Chief Executive of CEC (Mrs Fiona Bruce) will achieve with the project. She has already stated her aim of getting the project completed as soon as possible, but then senior TIE staff have been and gone with the same good intentions. Although TIE is an arm's length council owned company, and has some councillors on its board, the ruling group in CEC claims it cannot control the TIE board. A new hyperlink has been added to the Edinburgh home-page to a Leith Links website, which conscienciously provides links to all press reports relating to the Edinburgh tram project. However, the letters/reactions pages demonstrate some extraordinary ignorance and prejudice,and cannot be taken seriously.

Edinburgh News 2011: top