Today we witnessed the latest in a long line of terrible decisions on the Edinburgh tram project. In an astoundingly short-sighted move, Labour and the Conservatives conspired to save their seats by voting down the funding mechanism for getting the tram line constructed to St. Andrew Square, despite having previously voted for that option. The SNP buried their heads in the hand, adopting their official yet childish stance of "it wasn't our idea; we never wanted trams". Now, if we're lucky, we'll get a line that terminates at Haymarket, short of the city centre, and makes an almost guaranteed annual loss.
Did the people of Edinburgh want to spend £1billion on half a tram line? Of course not. The people of Edinburgh generally didn't want trams at all. I think they'll need to get over that at some stage, however, as faster and more efficient transport will be necessary.
Nonetheless, we found ourselves at this point, here and now. The agreement to build to St. Andrew Square was brokered with the construction consortium, Bilfinger Berger. The "drop dead" for that agreement is just days away. Everyone expected the council to agree to the financing option and thus allow the remainder of the works to be started in September.
Sadly, some upstart councillors, probably thinking they could save their own seats, voted down the financing leaving the city of Edinburgh with the worst of all recent options. We now have to renegotiate the agreement with the consortium, within days, then build a line that is convenient for only the very few. If it never gets extended beyond Haymarket, we'll be forever subsidising it until it's closed. A most remarkable waste of money. Perhaps, it this stage, we'd be better off if BB decided to walk away. We'd be liable for £161million almost immediately and we'd perhaps need to repay the government to the tune of £500million, but at least we could bury the shame and forget the gross mismanagement and incompetence of our own city.
It's our new folly, our very own and thoroughly Modern Disgrace and we've never been further away from the days of the Scottish Enlightenment. Are you proud, councillors?
Graham's blog: politics, poetry, and introspection