City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Following Mediation More Tram Works Planned For Summer


By edg - Posted on 11 May 2011

Tram on Princes Street

Edinburgh Trams made its first public statement since the SNP majority win at the Scottish Parliamentry Election last week buried the possibility of getting extra government cash for completing the beleaguered project.

It was also the first time Edinburgh Trams broke silence about the results of the mediation process, which began in March. It announced that further tram works on Princes Street and road diversions are planned this Summer.

The move certainly reinforces its commitment to build the tram as far as St Andrew Square, although many have speculated that the tram will not be completed beyond Haymarket for some time due to a funding shortfall.

I've posted the full statement (optimistically entitled "Mediation Restores Tram Momentum") below and you can read it here:

"The way forward for the tram project is clearer today with one of the proposals agreed through the mediation process being made public. Following the mutually agreed appointment of an independent mediator, Michael Shane, intensive meetings took place from 8 – 12 March with all relevant parties represented. In the two months since, positive dialogue has been maintained.

A key outcome of the process has been that the parties have set aside their differences in respect of Princes Street and the infrastructure contractor, Bilfinger Berger and Siemens (BBS) has agreed that it will carry out a programme of remedial works to fully repair the road surface. The works will be carried out in two stages: from 3 July – 26 November and then from January – May next year. No new public funds will be required for these works.

Other works on Princes Street will also be undertaken including erecting street lighting and remaining overhead line equipment poles and work around the tram stop.

Over the coming period, prior to the diversions being implemented, the Council and the infrastructure contractor will carry out a detailed consultation with the city centre business community, and other key stakeholders, to plan the necessary arrangements for traffic diversions, bus services, pedestrian routes, waste collection, deliveries and signage.

Traffic diversion arrangements will be broadly similar to those in place during previous works, with buses, taxis and cycles diverted to George Street and general traffic diverted onto Queen Street as a principal route.

Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council, Cllr Jenny Dawe, said: “Last November I instructed the Chief Executive to pursue the option of mediation with tie and the infrastructure contractor and I am pleased that we are now seeing the benefits of this process.

“Without question there is a difficult period ahead, however I am still of the belief that a tram network which expands over time will be of enormous benefit to people living and working in this city for generations to come.

“The programme of priority works along with rectifying the road surface and other works on Princes Street is a sign that we are moving forward. We had hoped to avoid the scenario of a further traffic diversion from Princes Street but having listened to the advice from council officers and the infrastructure contractor I understand why this is necessary. We will work closely with the city’s business community to ensure any impact is managed effectively before the diversion is put in place and during the period of works.”

Vic Emery, Chair of tie, added: “It was vital that the momentum of the project was restored. All parties involved are in agreement that, through the mediation process, good progress has been made in identifying the key issues that lay at the heart of the dispute, and a measure of goodwill has been re-established.

“The next step is to finalise the revised plans for the delivery of phase 1a, including projected costs and programme, and this will be shared with all relevant parties including Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government before being made public in due course.”

Martin Foerder, Project Director for Bilfinger Berger Civil UK Ltd said: “There are a number of outstanding elements still to be undertaken on Princes Street and by doing these now we are also able to repair the road surface.

“Bilfinger Berger, Siemens and CAF are committed to working with partners in Edinburgh to deliver a tram system for the city and have already completed a number of significant structures as well as the building of the tram vehicles.”

“I look forward to being able to announce shortly the plans for the remaining works still to be undertaken which will see trams running from the airport to the city centre.”

A full programme of consultation with city stakeholders affected by the Princes Street programme will be undertaken, including an analysis of any opportunities which may arise to use the increased availability of pedestrian space."

The proposed works will be undertaken in stages. However due to the nature of them a full diversion of buses, taxis and cycles is required to accommodate the schedule, the phases planned are as follows:

Phase 1 – Weekend of 2 July:

Traffic diversions implemented, site boundary established which will include the full length of the westbound lanes with areas of work also required on the east bound lanes at the west end of Princes Street between the Lothian Road junction and South Charlotte Street.

Phase 2 – post summer Festivals:

The site boundary will move to encompass one lane eastbound. The lane closest to the shops will remain open for emergency services and delivery access. For the Christmas shopping embargo period the site boundary will be removed and the street opened for pedestrian use. The area of work still to be undertaken will be temporarily resurfaced.

Phase 3 – January 2012:

The site boundary will be minimised to encompass the remaining work area."

The statement ends.

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I expected something more substantial after all the build-up that this mediation process has had. Instead we have a promise to fix the road and to put in overhead lines. I really hope we are not going to be drip-fed updates for another few years. Please. 

Yes, disappointing that we still have no destination for the first phase of the trams, no price tag for the project, and no idea when the first trams will run.

This must be one of the most incredibly crass statements to be made by any Local Authority - they do not know when they will have trams running and they cannot even say how far the trams are going to get which any person with half a brain would have found out before deciding to close the whole of Princes Street for almost a year.    If anything is designed to drive tourists away this must 'take the biscuit' and be the dispair of all the VisitScotland officials as the results of this folly will not just be felt this year it will have at least a five year effect.   I already know of people who have decided not to come to Edinburgh - certainly the comment by Vic Emery, Chairman of Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (tie), is designed to ruin the tourist trade when he compared Edinburgh to Tripoli - what a crass comment!

The Council have spent £440 million - 80% of the whole budget and nothing has happened of relevance except that the whole of the city has been inconvenienced hugely and traders have lost hundreds of millions of pounds with even more pain to come.

The Council and tie have been asked how they are to cope with several hugely demanding engineering critical points and so far they have failed to respond.

What is to happen when the tram line crosses the Water of Leith flood plain beside Murrayfield Stadium? How is the line going to sit beside the main Edinburgh to Glasgow and North of Scotland rail track - has Network Rail agreed to the plan and what is the cost to be? What about the fuel tanks that have to be moved at the ScotRail Depot and the contaminated ground underneath?   Has this been costed? What about the entrance to the Scot Rail Depot which is on the tram route?   Where is the entravnce to be moved to and what is the cost?

These are just some of many questions put to the Council and tie by three chartered civil engineers with international credibility.   We are left with some half-baked statement from a bunch of second rate politicians - God help us!

The latest developments, outlined in your report seem to be two stories wrapped into one.

At one level there is a lot of imprecise talk of 'signs of moving forward' and 'restoring momentum' and ' a measure of goodwill' being established---but no real information at all.

Th other story is the simply unbelievable factual one that a bodged and botched track laying that reduced Princes Street to a builders yard for months on end is about to be repeated---yet it isn't clear by any means that their will be money to run trams along Princes street.

The first track laying was clearly just an excercise in attempting to present 'momentum' and 'progress' at a time when the tram needed to 'seem' to be moving forward---essentially 'construction as a PR event'.  This work is the same---a desperate attempt to stick in some rails and poles so that when the cash runs out short of Haymarket and more is needed to reach even that point, there will be the chance for TIE (or if they have gone by then) the Council to wail that 'the rails are in place, so close to Haymarket it would be madness not to push on."

An open letter from 3 respected Civil Engineers with wide experience, one being Dr Derek Shepherd who was involved in the construction of the Singapore Light Rail Mass Transit system (That's a successful project) has asked crucial questions about the possibility of still unquantified costly works needed just to get to Haymarket that could mean the project needing significantly more cash than in the entire original budget for the whole loop merely to complete to Haymarket.

Predictably these questions remain entirely unanswered by TIE.

People still arguing to press on seem to assume that the money crisis, and previous management problems are merely accidental mishaps that have befallen the project as could have happened to any project.

The fact is that the the project itself is flawed, it's business case a rotten and decayed document that has lost touch with any reality--- capital costs escalate with £600M or £700M suddenly simply accepted, even as we move towards the heart of one of the major financial catastrophes in at least 100 years Edinburgh acts as if what happens in Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Iceland can never happen here..that the cash will be found but that the City Council workers and contractors in other fields simultaneously being sacked will  not be connected to that misdirected cash shortfall

The photograph at the top of the article isn't even accurate--their own visualisations of what they are building are as chaotic as the reality, the Trams run down the middle of the street either side of a central reserve and drop their passengers in the centre of the street.

Buses can't run on the tracks...as we have now been told they'll crack the rail bed... and buses can't get down the road anyway with other buses loading and unloading in the single remaining lane each way they would back up constantly and the run down Princes street take longer than the journey to the edge of town.

But buses will be taken from the street and join the traffic squeezing by the Tram lines at the turnaround in York Place, the bus shelter in the visualisation will disappear as well.

These buses will no doubt choke the area around Picardy Place and London Road with the rest of the decanted traffic battling East, and so the cascade of disasterous consequences will continue to flow and with it the constant calls to spend ' just one last £50Million or so' more---because then it will be okay.

Here's a third story to go with the first imprecise, but wishful fable, and the second factual present reality----- A Tram for Edinburgh could still be a great thing and pay its way, and enhance the living environment for the residents--- but THIS tram is like some sort of Frankenstein scheme, doomed from the beginning as high minded hopes foundered on the rocks of too many compromises, too much wishful thinking  instead of planning. 

And like Dr Frankenstein's unlovely creation it has now turned on its hapless creators and is destroying them even as they struggle in vain to somehow save it, the lightening crashes around City Chambers as the panic stricken and dishevelled creators rush blindly about as the monster they built runs amok .....  the analogy breaks only because unlike CEC and TIE at least DR Frankenstein didn't actually ask the citizens of the town his nightmare creation terrorised to pay his wages and pay for the costs of building it.