Council ‘wanted trams on the cheap’
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.