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Tram chief: big works 'need brave politicians'

Proposing large public building works takes political courage, according to the man behind a delayed and over-budget city tram project.

Richard Jeffrey, chief executive of Tie, the firm set up to oversee the tram-works in Edinburgh city centre, said the current delays may frighten off politicians from making similar infrastructure commitments in future.

The project is being held back by a dispute with key contractor Bilfinger Berger, which has caused a lengthy delay.

Edinburgh MSPs have heavily criticised the hold-up, as well as the cost overruns of tens of millions of pounds.

But Mr Jeffrey told BBC Radio Scotland: “We’ve got to be very careful that we don’t make these project politically untouchable. It’s always easier for people to oppose things than to propose things. Proposing and supporting these major long-term infrastructure projects does take political courage.

“I think we’ve got to be very careful that we don’t end up in a situation where our politicians are frightened to make these long-term infrastructure investment decisions because they’re worried about what others are going to say.

“This mentality of opposing things might be politically expedient but actually it leaves us as a society with a decaying infrastructure and no investment for the future.”

Last month it emerged that the tram project had burst its budget by at least £50 million.

The Scottish Government was against the works but opposition parties united to defeat it in the Scottish Parliament and gave the project the green light.