Trams, eh? £268 million over budget (well, they won't let out with the figure, so my speculation is as good as any), two years behind schedule one month, six weeks ahead the next month, no outstanding disputes then 400 of them, buses in chaos and making a loss but they're supposed to subsidise the trams (which might, in any case, be illegal under section 80 of the Transport Act 1985), and Jenny Dawe thinks it's appropriate to say that it's fine to have people going out of business on Leith Walk because the recession would have done for them anyway; an ill-considered remark at very best. On top of that, David McLetchie on the same radio programme said he voted for the tram project to continue to make sure that the SNP Government didn't spend the money on something else (like something that would work, perhaps), but Sarah Boyack wasn't letting them get away without a Labour comment, she called it a world-scale and serious project. What does she mean by 'world-scale'? That is simply meaningless, but the project is serious, it's a serious mistake.
I wonder when those people who rammed this vanity project through Parliament and through the council will admit that it is a mistake and call a halt to the whole thing. Will it be after the construction cash has run out and there is not another penny to be squeezed out of Government? Will it be after the measures we've been warned about take effect? Lots of us have been pointing out that the money to build the thing just isn't there, but to find that the intention now is to build a fraction of the one line that was intended, that TIE wants to borrow against future profits (good luck finding a lender for that) and rent the tram vehicles instead of buying them. Most worrying of all, though, is that there is a proposal to cut other council spending to pay for the tram. Where will they cut that? Will the money for equalising pay be cut? Will the education budget be cut? Social work? Cleansing? The Festivals?
This project is years late, there are 400 points of dispute between the client and the contractor, diverting the utilities has turned out so far to be 170% of the job expected - and it's not finished, Shandwick Place works have now fallen behind to add to the problems at Haymarket and at Picardy Place. The utility diversion wasn't completed in time to allow the German contractor to start work on laying the track but TIE thinks the adjudication will go against the contractor - delusional behaviour. The Tram project director for TIE was warning that the target date has already slipped into 2013 while his chairman was saying no-one was contemplating that. If they can't even agree between them what they've already agreed in private, what hope is there that they will deliver anything?
On top of that, the dodgy business case is falling apart. The projected losses from the first year of operation have doubled - this on a business case that relies on passengers who don't exist yet but will magically appear to use the tram and on people who will be moving into the houses that haven't been built at Granton. It also relies on tram getting one quarter of its operating revenue from concessionary fares. In order to get that they will have to persuade the Government that rail services (which trams are) should be added to the scheme for concessionary fares for buses - who's paying for that?
Ill-considered and ill-starred, it's time to end this scheme now - it can be scrapped and we can save what's possible to save. It's clear that the money isn't there to build this fraction of a line and that the revenue stream does not and will not exist. Those who forced it on us should step away and let the scheme be dismantled, then I hope we can have apologies from politicians who think it's fine to watch people's shops (businesses and livelihoods) close and from politicians who thought it a great jape to force £500 million of public money into large holes across Edinburgh instead of letting it be spent properly. Then, perhaps, we can have a look at what's been going on inside TIE and how it could collapse from the healthy report it got in 2007 to the mess it's in now.
Above all, scrap the thing now and let us get our city back.