City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Council Votes To Take Tram to St Andrew Square


By edg - Posted on 02 September 2011

Tram Works, Princes Street and Castle

As expected Edinburgh City Council has voted to take the trams to St Andrew Square, reversing the recent decision to reverse the 30th June decision... to go to St Andrew Square. Confused? Exasperated? Well, it is the Edinburgh trams.

As they said they would, the SNP councillors came out in support of the Liberal Democrat motion to build the tram line to the city centre. In last month's decision, they abstained, which allowed Conservative and Labour councillors to win an amendment to make Haymarket Station the new destination.

The Con-Lab councillors argued that it was a "sensible option" given that continuing to build into the city centre would saddle the city with a 30 year debt of £231 million (£15.3m per year).

However, after the Scottish Government said it would withhold the remaining £72 million of its £500 million grant if the tram stopped at Haymarket, and with the threat of a £161 million charge for a breach of contract with Bilfinger Berger, the St Andrew Square option began to look more appealing.

"Continuing with the tram route to St Andrew Square was the only sensible option for Edinburgh,"  said City of Edinburgh Council Leader Jenny Dawe after the decision.

Very little has been "sensible" about the way this project has been run. However, under the circumstances, continuing the tram to St Andrew Square was the only option left. The best of all evils. Fingers crossed.

The Open for Business Scheme was also given an increased budget to provide support for businesses affected by the on-street section of works over the next two years.

Dawe said: "I look forward to seeing a new work programme which enables our tramline to be built and operational as quickly as possible."

Following the Council meeting, Sue Bruce said: "As Council officers we have a duty to implement decisions made by Elected Members. Over the course of the last week it became clear that there were material issues which would make delivering the line to Haymarket as a first phase difficult and this was considered by Elected Members today.

"Today's decision enables us to report back to the contractor that we have confirmation of the Council's funding for the project and we can work towards a settlement agreement and a revised programme of works.

"We will communicate publicly when this has been achieved."

How the voting played out

No overall majority was secured on the first round of voting and the least supported amendment fell (the Green Amendment which had 3 votes)

No overall majority was secured on the second round of voting and the least supported amendment (Conservative Party) fell.

No overall majority was secured on the third round of voting and the least supported amendment (SNP) fell.

The Liberal Democrat Motion, supported by the SNP was then carried by 28 votes against the Labour amendment (15 votes)

The motion

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT MOTION

COUNCIL MEETING : 2 SEPTEMBER 2011

3.1 Edinburgh Tram Project

Council agrees that the report presented for decision today contains material changes of circumstances to the Tram Project since the decision of the Council meeting of 25 August;

Council is pleased to be able to provide additional revenue funds equivalent to £445k per annum from 2011 to 2013 for the Open for Business Programme;

Council agrees the recommendations of the report, taking trams to St Andrew Square in the first instance, subject to:

* the insertion of the following at the end of clause 14 (v):

"and instructs the Chief Executive to continue to pursue further mitigation of risk prior to settlement and beyond."

* the insertion of the following at the end of clause 14 (vi):

"and ensure that these are consistent with commitments previously given in respect of service provision and fares."

* the insertion of the following additional clause:

"ratifies Dave Anderson, Director of City Development, and Karen Kelly, Acting Director of Finance and Chief Finance Officer, as Directors of tie."

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This is Unite's response, sent out in a statement following the Trams decision:

"Edinburgh's Councillors pushed the first domino of public sector sell-offs by condemning the future of Lothian Buses after a spectacular u-turn on the city's tram fiasco.

Bus workers stormed-out of today's full council meeting in disgust at the actions of Council groups from across the political spectrum.

The Unite trade union also say that the decision to progress the Airport to St Andrews Square line will consign the city to generations of debt.

Unite Scottish Secretary, Pat Rafferty, said: "This is a total catastrophe for Lothian Buses, its workforce and the public.

"This world class public service will now be saddled with the debt of the trams fiasco leaving it to the mercy of the market.

"This shambolic council have unforgivably ignored the public and workers affected, burdening the city with eye-watering levels of debt that will cast a dark shadow over its public services."

The initial costs of the route will exceed £770 million but industry experts have said the final cost could surpass £1 billion. This is half a billion pounds more than the initial £500 million of funding allocated by the Scottish Government to complete a city wide tram project in 2008."