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Ministers 'must intervene on trams'

The Scottish Government should intervene in Edinburgh’s tram works because the project risks collapse, according to Audit Scotland.

The SNP administration should use the expertise of Transport Scotland to try to help prevent any more delays to the city centre work.

Audit Scotland also said the body set up by Edinburgh City to oversee the project, Transport Initiatives Edinburgh, no longer has the skills and experience to ensure the work is successfully completed, especially after several staff quit recently.

Its report expressed worry about the final cost of the trams because the work now cannot be finished within the original budget and raised questions about whether the promised benefits of the scheme would actually materialise.

Work is currently on hold, however mediation talks between the two parties are due to take place soon.

The project’s chairman David Mackay announced in November he was taking early retirement and stood down immediately.

Despite those problems, it is still hoped the project will be completed in 2013, however Audit Scotland said it was now clear it cannot be done within the £545 million budget.

While utilities diversion works are 97% complete, and 75% of tram vehicles have been built, only 28% of infrastructure work has been carried out against a target of 99% for December 2010. Meanwhile, 74% of the funding has already been spent.

John Baillie, chairman of the Accounts Commission, one of the organisations the report was prepared for, said public confidence in the tram works was “extremely low”, and advised the city council and Tie to urgently explain how the project is progressing.

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