Monday 23 February 2009

It's a trama, true enuff. If Dougie wass here he would tell you...

Never let it be said that research is easy ("if we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be research" - some guy called Einstein). In seeking the very best travel solutions for my nation's capital city I have travelled far and wide (some would say too wide but I haven't had to buy two seats yet) and I have examined intracity transport systems with great interest (maps - why can every other nation produce maps for their public transport, even in the wee towns, but we're left with a dodgy schematic?) and much musing upon the most satisfactory means of travel.

When the local amateur trama company decided upon the 'train on a road' single line (except not quite a full line) snarl-up-the-traffic system for Edinburgh, I took an extra interest in how our European neighbours did things.

I travelled on the new trams in Paris - slow when going uphill and rattling fit to wake the dead (or even a snoozing Parisien), noisy, uncomfortable and slow - and brand new. I suspect that Paris indulged in a little "value engineering". One big shame is that Paris is an excellent city and this blight upon its cityscape detracts from that.

Deterred? Not me! I tried Strasbourg - quiet, at least, but uncomfortable and not very fast - and they've slapped the tramlines right through la Place de la République! What were they thinking? How can you contemplate Mother Strasbourg in peace now?
Brussels - noisy things, but at least they use them for city centre freight and garbage collection instead of expecting human beings to be the only ones to suffer.

Berlin - shiny and new and so much like the Paris ones that they must be the same model, but without the 'value engineering'. Comfortable, but I could have walked there quicker - you would need to ban all the other traffic from the roads that the trams use. That'll be your cue for your close-up then ...

Budapest - shake, rattle and roll, came off second best in that contest, I'll tell you.

Basel - I nearly got killed by a tram - never heard it coming and was too busy munching a bretzel ... Obviously a bad system, so I never tried it.
Amsterdam - noisy, uncomfortable and cold.

From the German border beside Colmar into Freiburg - now there's a tram! Superb, quiet, fast, comfortable, spacious, warm; an excellent way to travel - probably because it was off-road and ran like a train, but why quibble?

Far better than any tram system were the overground and underground rail systems in Paris, Berlin, Budapest, and Brussels, and I would highly recommend any such mode of transport to any fine young people adventuring abroad.

All of this research, of course, makes me an "expert" - of a sort - and I can heartily recommend that we never have trams anywhere near Edinburgh. They'll clog us up, box us in, and break down twice a day. It was with some circumspection, then, that I contemplated the news that the Tram Project had suffered another blow with the main contractor stomping off in the huff - just because they're not getting paid (some people want paid for everything these days - including doing their job).
On the one hand, we could have expected this to come about - the project's been badly managed from the start - but on the other our city is like a building site, traffic is chaotic, and businesses are suffering. Some people have lost long-established businesses during this farce of a project, some have lost more recently established but equally important businesses. That's not just livelihoods going, that's part of the community being stripped away - and all for the vanity of some egotistical politicians wanting to leave a "landmark legacy".

Well, while tie and the contractor fight over whose lollipop it is and the council scrutiny team stand uselessly by, here's what I think is happening:
The funding from the Scottish Government is staged for each financial year.
The construction costs are paid in four-weekly stages.
It's six weeks to the end of the financial year.
There was a £60 million black hole in tie's finances in August.
The project has been badly managed so that the contractor is now asking for the contracted penalty to be paid.
With a current projected overspend of some £268 million, the Tram Project managers have been spending as much as they can as fast as they can before the project hits the buffers (so apt) - in order to have a substantial sum spent to bolster the argument that "you can't stop now, not after spending eleventeen million pounds" and blackmail the government into cutting other services to fund the Tram.
In short, there are no more pennies in the tie biscuit tin until the new financial year and they want the contractor to continue without getting the penalty payment until mid April (assuming it is only the penalty payment that is at risk) to keep the project running.
Cancel it now, I say, they're taking us for a ride - and it's not in a tram! We should be told, though, whether this publicly-owned company is, indeed, broke, and how much trouble the public purse is in as a result of this folly of epic proportions.

"Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused."


Anonymous said...

You didn't mention the trams in Bordeaux. They're lovely and quiet and avoid the unsightliness of overhead wires by drwaing power from a ground rail. And so they all stop when it rains.

Sean McLeod said...

Noted the TIE minutes of 11 September 2008:

The Chairman notified the Board of the change in CEC membership. Cllr Ian Perry has replaced Cllr Ricky Henderson. The Chairman welcomed Cllr Perry to the Board and recorded his appreciation of Cllr Henderson’s contribution to
the Board over the last few years. A dinner to mark his departure is to be held on 8th October. Details will be provided to the Board members in due course.

While Edinburgh weeps, the members of TIE dine.

Calum Cashley said...

I haven't encountered the trams in Bordeaux - I'll pencil in a trip. Do they really have to stop in the rain?

I find myself despairing about TIE. It would appear that the body is incapable of running a bath.