Coun­cil ‘wanted trams on the cheap’

Scottish Daily Mail - - Life - By Joe Sten­son

ED­IN­BURGH tram bosses pres­sured plan­ners to use a ‘cheaper’ de­sign that could have re­sulted in a dis­as­trous de­rail­ment, an in­quiry heard yes­ter­day.

Steve Reynolds, di­rec­tor of de­sign firm Par­sons Brinck­er­hoff, told the Ed­in­burgh Tram In­quiry the coun­cilowned com­pany over­see­ing the project urged his firm to use a ‘sim­pler’ but po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous de­sign.

It en­tailed dig­ging shal­lower and less stable track foun­da­tions which could have led to a po­ten­tially lethal de­rail­ment.

Mr Reynolds said the shal­base lower foun­da­tions were used in Princes Street and had to be dug up and re­placed.

He said the move re­sulted in an in­flated price for the scheme, which ended up three years be­hind sched­ule at a vastly in­flated cost of £1bil­lion.

Of the dis­agree­ment with coun­cil-owned Trans­port Ini­tia­tives Ed­in­burgh (TIE), he said: ‘We were be­ing pres­sured by TIE to ac­cept a much cheaper, much sim­pler de­sign.

‘We pointed out the risks and sub­se­quently when Princes Street was ex­ca­vated we were proved to be right.’

Mr Reynolds added: ‘My firm’s pre­ferred op­tion was what’s known as full depth re­con­struc­tion, which is ex­ca­va­tion of the and the putting in place of a sub-base un­der­neath the im­me­di­ate foun­da­tion of the track. So you’re go­ing down a sig­nif­i­cant way into the road­way.’

The al­ter­na­tive de­sign put for­ward by con­struc­tion con­sor­tium BBS only re­quired ‘plan­ing off the im­me­di­ate sur­face’ of roads. He said: ‘In our view, it wouldn’t have been safe. You’ve got to an­tic­i­pate there will be cav­i­ties un­der the road­way. You will get drainage chan­nels, all sorts of rea­sons why the sub-base may have moved, may have re­sulted in voids.’

The voids needed to be ‘spanned’ to pre­vent in­sta­bil­ity lead­ing to rail break­ages, he said, adding: ‘Ob­vi­ously, if you get a rail break­age in an in­ner city en­vi­ron­ment, you get a de­rail­ment. That’s un­safe.’

Alan Dolan of Par­sons Brinck­er­hoff told the in­quiry of the dif­fi­cul­ties of pre­par­ing util­i­ties di­ver­sions be­fore the tracks were laid.

He said: ‘The util­i­ties com­pa­nies, they’re con­glom­er­ates. You keep go­ing back with the same set of draw­ings moved from a po­si­tion and when they ask you why this has moved, you give them an an­swer some­body wished to move a tram stop 300 mil­lime­tres, or what­ever. They don’t take kindly to it.

‘They say, “Well, I’ve looked at this draw­ing once. You’re at the back of the queue”.’

In some cases, Mr Dolan said, it was 40 weeks be­fore engi­neers checked the draw­ings again. ‘They ab­so­lutely an­ni­hi­lated the TIE pro­gramme’, he added.

The in­quiry con­tin­ues.

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