Just when you thought it was safe to discuss Edinburgh Trams without mention of Lord Hardie’s Inquiry Report, then the City of Edinburgh Council come along with their official response to the content. Released in September 2023 the lengthy report (which as we all know also took nine years from initial announcement to report release) determined that much of the blame for cost overruns and delays to the original tram project was down to the arms length company tie and the City of Edinburgh Council although the Scottish Government didn’t come out of it unscathed either. At the time the Council gave a brief statement but after around 6 weeks they have now had time to dissect the contents and released a report of their own in response.
In a report to the Transport and Environment Committee, the Council’s understanding of the failures identified in Lord Hardie’s report in delivering what became the first phase of the Edinburgh Trams project are outlined. It also notes how lessons learnt can ensure future delivery of major infrastructure projects can avoid similar issues.
Consideration has been given to Lord Hardie’s recommendations – with the Council also noting that many lessons had already been learnt as evidenced by the successful construction of the Trams to Newhaven project – and an assessment of the consequences of the project’s failings, such as additional costs, disruption and impact on the Council’s reputation.
The response from the Council examines and acknowledges the findings made by the Inquiry, including those around governance, the need for independent legal advice and reporting practices. It also considers implications for future project management.
Cllr Cammy Day, Council Leader, commented: “Since the start of the Tram Inquiry we’ve completed the line to Newhaven and launched passenger services, the success of which was down to the hard work of the in-house project team and partners. It’s also thanks to lessons learned from the first project, and our own improvements to project management and governance, communication and independent oversight. It’s worth noting too that in the nine years since the line between Edinburgh Airport and York Place was built, the service has flourished to become a hugely successful transport route for thousands of residents and visitors each day.”
In addition to the main report, three appendices have also been produced. This cover the financial cost and reporting of the tram project, whether any action is to be taken with employees as a result of the Inquiry’s findings and assurance of arrangements in place for Arm’s Length External Organisations (ALEO) and contractors and an update on any possible legal action (the last will be considered in private).
Cllr Day continued: “While we broadly agree with Lord Hardie’s recommendations, prior to the inquiry’s announcement we had already introduced processes and strategies to help avoid some of the problems experienced in the original tram project. Not only have we applied this in the construction of the line to Newhaven, but these lessons are hugely beneficial to other major infrastructure projects.
“Of course, scrutiny of the Inquiry’s findings has allowed us to provide further, robust assurance that we understand the factors that contributed to the difficulties in the first phase of tram delivery, and to build confidence in future infrastructure delivery. We want to make sure we continue learning and improving.
“We know that serious mistakes were made in the construction of the original tram line, which caused a great deal of disruption and concern for residents and businesses, as well as impacting the Council’s reputation. Once again, I want to apologise for this.
“Ultimately, creating a better connected, environmentally friendly transport system is essential for a modern, successful city and we need to transform the way people move around if we are to achieve our net zero goals.”
The main report will be discussed by the Transport and Environment Committee on 16th November with the three appendices then going before the Governance Risk and Best Value Committee on 28th November. All reports will then be referred to the Full Council in December for consideration.
- The report and appendices can be viewed online at https://democracy.edinburgh.gov.uk/documents/s63276/Response%20to%20Tram%20Inquiry%20with%20appendices%201%20to%203.pdf