23 Aug 2013

#c4newspopup: Edinburgh trams over-budget and off the rails

Scotland Correspondent

Plans to build a new tram network in the Scottish capital have so far delivered nothing but a vast concrete jungle, which is irking people in Edinburgh.

Tram works, tram works everywhere and not a tram in sight. Visitors to the Edinburgh Festival could not possibly fail to notice the building works that have torn through its streets.

An ambitious project to construct a new tram network from scratch has so far delivered nothing but a vast concrete jungle.

It is already over budget and two years behind schedule, and it was overwhelmingly the issue that most irked Channel 4 News viewers who got in touch as #c4newspopup landed in the Scottish capital.

‘Absolute disgrace’

“It’s an absolute nightmare,” says Stuart Orr, who runs Au Bar in the city’s west end. “This morning a lovely skip has appeared outside my front door, that was nice of them.”

Over the years Mr Orr has seen his bar attract more and more concrete, but fewer and fewer customers. The road outside his bar has been dug up and re-laid three times.

He estimates the disruption is now costing his business £3-4,000 a month.

The issue has become so notorious the locals are even writing songs about it. “Where’s the trams, what’s the plans?” sings Bobby Nicholson at a gig in the Edinburgh Fringe.

The answer is that the plans have been ripped up, much like many of the city’s streets.

‘On track’

The leader of Edinburgh Council, Andrew Burns, insists the project is now on track and is running to a “revised schedule and a revised budget”, saying: “Large infrastructure projects always encounter problems. But the contractor is dealing with it.”

Councillor Burns says he hopes the trams will be completed in time for next year’s festival.