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Downsized Edinburgh Tram scheme 'threatens city's vibrancy'

The leader of Edinburgh council has slammed a decision by councillors to cut short the Edinburgh Tram project.

Councillors voted to rescind a decision to build the tram project to St Andrew Square in favour of a shorter route between Edinburgh Airport and Haymarket.

German contractor Bilfinger Berger is delivering the scheme which has been beset by problems including contract disputes since its inception.

Councillor Jenny Dawe said: “It’s heartbreaking that the decision to progress to St Andrew Square has fallen threatening this city’s future financial vibrancy.

“I am really angry that Labour and Tory Councillors have rejected the professional advice of our Chief Executive and officers and some of the most highly regarded legal, technical, financial and engineering experts in the country.”

Ms Dawe said the scheme will now run at an annual £4 million loss after the proposal to borrow an extra £231m to extend the line to St Andrews Square was thrown out.

The tram was originally designed to run from Edinburgh Airport, on the western fringes of the city, to Newhaven on the banks of the Forth at a cost of £545 million.

Councillors elected to continue building the line from the airport to St Andrew Square in June for the project which was expected to cost between £725 million and £773 million to complete.

The decision was based on a revised business case for the tram which showed that only by taking the line into the city centre, could a surplus - of around £2 million per year - be delivered.

Ms Dawe said: “This was the option that was supported by the business community within the city and would have seen a profit realised. An initial line to Haymarket makes no financial sense and will have a bigger negative impact on the finances of Lothian Buses. It will run at a permanent annual £4million loss.

“If the contractor now walks away we will be faced with having to find £161m this financial year. An impossible feat.”

Turner and Townsend was appointed to the scheme to replace Transport Initiatives Edinburgh as manager this week.

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