Many regular readers will know the centre of Edinburgh has been like a massive archaeological dig for the past few years and all because a minority of residents think a tram system would enhance the facilities in the city. Politics was behind the decision for the go ahead from the Scottish Parliament and now the good people of Edinburgh are beginning to realise the true cost of this disastrous project.
Paul Hutcheon, of the Sunday Herald, has uncovered more information about the spending of TIE, the arms-length business owned by Edinburgh City Council and set up to handle the project. Its £113.8 million budget is largely funded by the Government agency Transport Scotland, aided by a smaller pot of money from the council.
Since 2006 £1.1m has been paid in bonuses to TIE staff and £130,000 of that was related to the Edinburgh Airport Rail Link project which was scrapped in 2007 because of claims that the budget for the track had spiralled out of control. £2.5m has been spent on consultants since 2007 while £1.2m went on lawyers' fees and external advice during the Bilfinger (the main contractor) row.
They don't do playtime on the cheap at TIE. April 2007 saw £1032 blown on a staff quiz night at a top class Edinburgh hotel and a year later bosses spent £880 on a staff party at another venue. Another £800 was spent in August 2008 on a 'team event' in a bar, while £3102 was fond for a 'board strategy day' in North Berwick.
In February this year, at the height of the Bilfinger crisis, TIE used £1630 of it budget for an 'executive team away-day' at the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena and two months later it spent £2648 on another one at the same location. It must have been very popular because three weeks later they were there again at a cost to the taxpayer of £4017.
Richard Jeffrey, the chief executive of TIE, said of the events: “As regards our team at Edinburgh Trams, they are the lifeblood of the organisation and investing in them means investing in the right people to manage what is a complex and difficult project.”
£29,549 was spent on foreign business trips by staff and according to the figures, senior employees have travelled overseas on 29 occasions since 2007 and £68,000 has been spent on membership of professional organisations since 2006.
Come on Edinburgers, you're being taken for a ride - and it's not on a tram. Waken up and start protesting about the way your city is being abused. If this had happened in the likes of Germany everyone from the management downwards would have been sacked. But I doubt if it would happen in any other EU country. Why can't we manage projects these days? We educate some of the best engineers in the world yet we employ foreign companies to run our infrastructure projects. Is it because once qualified our best go abroad, just like our doctors etc?