Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Edinburgh tram councillor 'did not have skills'

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Media captionAn Edinburgh councillor tells BBC Scotland he and his colleagues may not have been qualified to deal with the trams project

Edinburgh City Council's transport convener has said he did not have the right skills to "properly scrutinise" the city's troubled tram project.

Councillor Gordon Mackenzie was one of four councillors on the board of TIE, which oversaw the tram scheme.

Mr Mackenzie told BBC Scotland he had a social work background.

He said other board members had electronics and banking management experience which did not give them the technical and legal expertise required.

The Edinburgh tram project is years behind schedule and massively over budget.

The latest cost estimate for running the line from the airport to St Andrew Square in the city centre is £776m, far higher than originally claimed for the entire network.

Rights skills

TIE, the publicly-owned company set up to manage the project, has been scrapped.

Mr Mackenzie, a Lib Dem councillor, said: "We were not people who had previously had experience of major projects like this."

He added: "I look back and I'm sure the inquiry will look at this, and my feeling is that we probably didn't have the right skill mix.

"Not to say that any individual was lacking in a particular way but you know I think we were put together for political purposes as much as anything else."

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Media captionBilfinger Berger has had a troubled relationship with those managing the project

His comments came as the firm building the controversial tramline, Bilfinger Berger, spoke out for the first time about the contractual dispute which brought work on the project to a standstill.

In a BBC Scotland interview, the boss of Bilfinger Berger described the bitter row as "extraordinary".

Dr Jochen Keysberg, one of the company's most senior executives, said the dispute happened because of the way TIE was interpreting the tram contract.

He said: "Maybe they were badly advised, maybe they just tried to pressure us in a certain position.

"This was frustrating, and if you have a completely different reading of the risk assessment in the contract, you cannot come together."

Dr Keysberg also insisted that TIE had always been responsible for increases in the cost of the project caused by design changes and problems encountered during utility diversion work.

He claimed the Edinburgh project turned out to be unlike anything the company had experienced anywhere else in the world.

Gagging clause

TIE frequently criticised Bilfinger Berger, even describing the contractors as "delinquent".

The German firm has never been able to defend itself. Until now, it's been silenced by a gagging clause.

But the company accepted an invitation to take part in a BBC Scotland television programme.

Edinburgh City Council has now scrapped TIE and work has restarted on key sections of the line.

BBC Scotland Investigates: The Great Tram Disaster will be broadcast on BBC1 Scotland on Tuesday October 11 at 2235.

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