Why was the very succesful Edinburgh tram system initially over cost and late?

Nevertheless the tram system is now an outstanding success, and the new extension to Lieth is on time and on budget:

for latest see: https://www.edinburghlive.co.uk/news/edinburgh-news/edinburgh-trams-extension-newhaven-project-19248103

and https://www.newcivilengineer.com/latest/lessons-from-over-budget-edinburgh-tramway-inform-completion-of-line-24-05-2021/  May 27th 2021


Nevertheless, the tram system is now an outstanding success, and the new extension to Leith is on time and on a budget:


Fundamentally, rather than put the entire project in the hands of people who knew about, and were experienced in building tram systems, the project was placed in the hands of inexperienced people resulting in gross mismanagement.

In the early stages the councillor responsible for the project was changed several times, but was mainly “guided” by an ex – director of  social services.

There were no proper firm contracts drawn up, nor contract risks
defined, so the construction firms (who were also changed a number of times) could run circles around the council.

Failure to locate services:

No utility survey was conducted (as is normal)  to find out what buried services there were and if they would have to be moved.  Services owners ( gas, electric, sewers necessarily require months of notice to mobilise and act so every time a new service was discovered this entailed a lengthy delay.

There were practically no records of cellars extending under the pavements from Georgian buildings in Princes Street, BT fibre optic cables ran diagonally
across the street, at a variable depth of sometimes about 3 inches, there was a main drain coming down the mound that was not recorded, no cost
overrun responsibilities were allocated

Legal firm issues

With legal firm takeovers, effectively the contractor’s lawyers and the council lawyers were part of the same company and the lawyers created a goldmine of an internal market from their monopoly position.

Standard engineering contracts

Well-tried and understood contracts are available from engineering organizations such as The I.Chem. E, International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC), New Engineering Contract (NEC), Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT), etc for a few hundred pounds and these can be readily adapted to any engineering situation. Instead of buying oneReportedly of these standard contracts they went to expensive London lawyers who concocted a contract so complex that no one could understand it. Reportedly the appendices alone occupied several ring binders, whereas standard contracts are some 10s of pages.


The tram depot area was in a floodplain so serious extra drainage had to be organised, and the works on the roundabout there
(Gogar) was halted for about a year.

Cycling lack of planning

Local specialist groups such as cyclists were not consulted leading to an ongoing sage of injured cyclists dealing with badly designed cycle crossings.


At the council elections during this saga the ruling libdems virtually disappeared. Sue Bruce became the new
chief executive and assumed full control with a steel grip, and the tram project was transformed and completed, although much shorter than
designed. It is now a very successful operation, with almost overcrowded 42 metre-long trams running during the rush hours (in normal non-lockdown

These errors need not be repeated

So for tramway construction, we should not take Edinburgh as an example to follow. Although the plans for reviewing the city’s transport organisation promises new lines in a shorter time, with lessons learnt. This time the councillor responsible has experience of living in Geneva, a tram city.

The tram is now so popular and successful it is being extended:




Further detail – we have asked various experts for their views and they are reported here:

Subject:  Edinburgh tram fiasco. can anyone familiar with the detail of
the Edinburgh fiasco offer to comment or preferably to edit this
article? https://bathtrams.uk/why-was-the-edinburgh-tram-fiasco-so-expensive-and-late/







Further detail – we have asked varoius experts for there views and they are reported here:

Subject:  Edinburgh tram fiasco. can anyone familiar with the detail of
the Edinburgh fiasco offer to comment or preferably to edit this
article? https://bathtrams.uk/why-was-the-edinburgh-tram-fiasco-so-expensive-and-late/




Date:   Fri, 24 Mar 2023 15:14:58 +0000
From:   Dave Andrews <tyningroad@gmail.com>
To:     <expertsfortrams@googlegroups.com>
The article :



Dear All,

I have commented on this article before, and would stand by what is
reported, that the set-up was not suitable for a large infrastructure
construction project.

One important thing  missing was that skeletons were found in
Leith, which was not under Edinburgh jurisdiction in the 15th century and
was part of the Hanseatic League. Under Scots Law any human remains need
to be identified to confirm there has been no foul play, irrespective of
the age of the remains. This caused more delay, as foreign seamen would be
many of the deceased, and family from centuries earlier were difficult to
After the council elections a much more determined councillor (and former
Lord Provost) took over the transport convenorship, and with the
appointment of Sue Bruce as Chief Executive much firmer control was taken
of the project. Also, it became clear that cancellation of the project
would be more expensive than continuing with the route curtailed from
airport to city centre rather than Newhaven.

And the government would not
provide any funding if no form of completion occurred. The government had
no more money, as all available funding had been allocated to Edinburgh’s
trams, with nothing else for the rest of the country (the North was crying
out for dualling of the A9 – which is still not complete). The government
is unable to spend more than its budget, as it lacks the freedom to
borrow. The rest of the country was therefore very jealous of the funding
Edinburgh received for its tram project.

With the new much firmer control
of the project it was “finished” to a curtailed route, and reached
operational profitability ahead of schedule, enjoying heavy load factors.
Particularly satisfying was that the park & ride facility at Ingliston is
nearly always full, and West Edinburgh’s transport corridors are less
polluted, proving that more people switch to tram than bus if there is a

The “extension” (completion) to Newhaven funding has been provided
on the expectation of profitability, adoption of rigid co-ordinated plans
using an obvious “one dig for multiple services” approach and professional
project management. Testing has now started from the city centre to
Newhaven with services starting in June.

New extensive tramline plans are being considered due to the success of
Line 1, and pressure to cut congestion and meet climate change targets.

To summarise, it must be concluded that the Edinburgh Tram Project was not
started with the thoroughness of planning that it deserved, and that led
to its cost and time overruns.

Vic MacKinlay


———- Forwarded message ———
From: LJS Lesley <ljslesley@aol.com>
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2023 at 11:28
Subject: Re: Edinburgh tram fiasco. can anyone familiar with the detail of the Edinburgh fiasco offer to comment or preferably to edit this article? Thanks. Dave
To: vic-iona.mackinlay@orpheusmail.co.uk <vic-iona.mackinlay@orpheusmail.co.uk>, <expertsfortrams@googlegroups.com> <expertsfortrams@googlegroups.com>, Dave Andrews <tyningroad@gmail.com>
Vic has given a good summary or the politics behind the project. Audit Scotland ( the official body) undertook a systematic analysis of what went wrong and why.(see https://www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/publications/edinburgh-trams-interim-report  and presently Lord Hardie is undertaking a judicial review of who was to blame and consequences.
I also had some involvement, meeting Siemen’s director undertaking the track installation, who confirmed that Siemens had not installed tram tracks before. Siemens was a subcontractor to Bilfinger-Berger, appointed after the UK consortium pulled out. In 2009 when there was some political turmoil in Edinburgh, not least because the ‘arms length’ company, TIE was not supervising the project rigorously (see Audit Scotland Report) Bilfinger-Berger ‘downed tools’, coinciding with a tunnel collapse in Cologne on a U.Bahn project they were constructing. A block of flats collapsed (only 3 residents killed) and the City’s archive fell into the flooded excavation, including medieval manuscripts. The German Official Inquiry concluded that Bilfinger-Berger had been negligent in surveying ground conditions and over the designs needed as well as undertaking the installation work. I do not know how B-B were able to cover the compensation costs from their insurance but from that point their cost for the Edinburgh project escalated.
Lewis Lesley
On Tue, 28 Mar 2023 at 11:37, <mike@> wrote:

Good Morning Dave, et al,

As you know I was the Head of Communications on the Edinburgh Tram
Project up until the contractual dispute.

Tie Ltd. (previously Transport Initiatives Edinburgh Ltd.) was a
Scottish company which, from May 2002 to August 2011, project-managed
large-scale transport projects on behalf of the City of Edinburgh
Council in Edinburgh. It was brought in as part of a public-private
partnership (PPP) to improve Scottish public transport infrastructure
development. Following its management of the controversial Edinburgh
Trams project, the company was closed down in 2011. Transport for
Edinburgh took over the Edinburgh Trams functions from Tie.

In effect tie Limited was a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) wholly owned
by The City of Edinburgh Council.


Despite Line 1a being truncated half way at St Andrews Square until now
where the whole line has now been completed and I am confident that this
is a project that will grow as originally planned and its success will

As everyone will know the project has been the subject of a Public
Inquiry chaired by The Rt Hon. the Lord Hardie KC.

In this link you will copies of all the evidence submitted to the


It is my understanding that Lord Hardie will issue the findings of his
Inquiry in the next few months. Once this has been released I would
suggest that the advocates of Trams for Bath will have a root and branch
insight as to what went wrong on Edinburgh and what worked well.

It is worth noting in all of this that despite the project having the
Scottish Parliament approval, the SNP, the primary opposition party at
that time, campaigned for the project to be stopped. This is not
necessarily unusual to Scotland but it was a fact that one of the
biggest transport projects in Scotland was constantly the subject of
criticism from the start.

Mike Connelly

Tue, 28 Mar, 15:26 (17 hours ago)

to mikevic-iona.mackinlayexpertsfortramsme
The SNP Council Group fully supported the construction of the extension from St Andrews Sq to Leith and therefore have a much more positive and supportive view of the project.

I’m confident that the Public Inquiry will provide a good thought-piece
on what went wrong and how these kind of projects should be managed in

Despite this Inquiry all is still not well in transport as you can read
from the link to the Scottish ferry procurement issues:



Mike Connelly



You will find the answer to your question(s) on the Edinburgh Tram delay in the links contained in the various posting on this e-mail chain and specifically https://www.edinburghtraminquiry.org/ when Lord Hardie publishes his findings

In the interim, you may find these helpful:#





David Cockle


From George Murray

Tue, 28 Mar, 16:42 (15 hours ago)

I would endorse all that Vic has reported and as I have already stated in this forum two years ago that the unfortunate debacle which the first contract became should not be in any way taken as what would be normal to any future proposed tram schemes. Nottingham, Croydon, Birmingham and now the Edinburgh extension were all better governed from day one and completed successfully.

Sound contract management by competent light rail experts is all that is required to achieve success.

Paris now has about 10 new tram lines without the problems we had in Edinburgh. British procurement of large schemes whether transport, defence or whatever too frequently end up hugely over budget and very late.  This malaise seems endemic and politicians of all persuasions never appear to improve matters.
Regards George


avid Cockle

Tue, 28 Mar, 17:38 (14 hours ago)
to lrta-developmentme
  1. Utilities – removal of all pipes & cables from the tram corridor
  2. Basements – the number of basements on the route was not surveyed and taken into consideration in designing the route
  3. Inadequate site investigation – Self-explanatory, particularly the afore mentioned burial grounds
  4. Design Scope Creep – elements of the design changed during construction delaying & increasing costs
  5. Edinburgh City Council & Councillors interference – changes requested after the Design Freeze
  6. Poor Project & Programme Management – the Construction Joint Venture [CJV] & the Client’s Project Manager did not adequately monitor the Project
  7. Poor Project Control – ditto item 6, Cost Control against the budget/target was inadequate
  8. Form of contract – IMHO, the Design & Build Contract [D & B] for the CJV was the wrong form for a complex contract

That’s all

Dave, your colleagues in Experts for Trams, Claverton Energy & Bath Trams will have to do their own research as I do, or wait for the outcome of the Inquiry


David Cockle


Extended correspondence in the Bath Chronicle local paper, on Edinburgh Trams:

1st in Sequence of anti-Edinburgh & Bath tram letter and subsequent pro-tram letters in Bath Chronicle – https://bathtrams.uk/saga-of-anti-edinburgh-tram-and-sequence-of-letters-in-bath-chronicle/

More letters supporting trams following John Carson’s anti-Edinburgh and anti-Bath Tram letters in the Bath Chronicle – https://bathtrams.uk/another-slew-of-letters-supporting-trams-following-john-carsons-letter/