Deciding to step down as chairman of Edinburgh Trams and Lothian Buses, the seasoned transport executive described the Scottish capital’s tramway morass as “hell on wheels,” according to today’s Scotsman newspaper.
This terse parting shot comes from a man the newspaper described in a companion piece as “one of Scotland’s best-known businessmen” who “had an ambition to make the project happen and to be a success.”
Instead, Mr. Mackay describes butting up against what he described as “a delinquent contractor who scented a victim” (referring to Germany’s Bilfinger Berger) as well as engineering hurdles posed by unexpected discoveries such as misplaced utilities and underground chambers on Princes Street. (The newspaper offered a handy summary of what work has — and hasn’t — been done on the project in this Oct. 28 piece.)
As noted on the Guardian’s Edinburgh tram blog, Mr. Mackay’s departure has led to speculation that Bilfinger Berger “is winning the legal battle,” although officials stressed that the loss of Mr. Mackay “will not change the course of the project and it will continue with a new chairman.” Meanwhile, the blog also noted that cyclists have called for remaining project cash to be used to make Edinburgh more cycle friendly.
In related news today, the Guardian also reported that “the heads of two of Edinburgh’s most influential council departments have spoken out against the idea of using a Waterfront funding pot to kick start the tram project.”
As the political rhetoric heats up, the SNP issued a statement calling for tram project bosses to appear in the Scottish Parliament to answer Mr. Mackay’s accusations.
In a separate development according to this report on the Deadline Scotland blog, union chiefs argue that bus operator Lothian Buses would be a better fit for running the system than anticipated operator TEL.
Observers, especially those of us watching from a distance, might well wonder whether trams will ever operate in Edinburgh given the project’s distressing history so far — and despite arguments (as referenced in my Oct. 26 post) that the system will be key to stimulating needed economic redevelopment along its lines.
Finally, my earlier post on Edinburgh tram developments can be found here, including a list of links to related resources.