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Costs soaring to infinity and beyond

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Costs soar off the Graph …   To infinity and beyond!

For the residents group the main objection to the Edinburgh Tram project is and always has been the heedless displacement of traffic it causes.

Because this leads to increased levels of pollution, and noise pollution, that will produce increased incidences of ‘bad health outcomes’—strokes, respiratory tract conditions (asthmas) and heart attacks.

The group feels this is unnecessary and caused by a need for size and speed designed into the project for reasons always suspect and now utterly insupportable in the new reality of the single track ‘Air link’. Given the resolve it would be possible to address these problems, even at this stage.

Persuading the wider public of the very large areas of the city that will be affected, and the need to alter the tram design specifications is the primary aim of this campaign.

The group believe that when more people do realise the issues and begin to exert more pressure ontheir councillors the political deadlock and games playing that has characterised this project’s governance will be swept away providing the possibility of  real change for the better will coming about.

Alongside the health impacts from noise and air pollutionm there are of course all the other things that happen, a less liveable environment, more noise that while perhaps isn’t directly harmful to health in the way the excessive noise is, still has impacts on the lives of people living in houses…babies awakened from sleep, people awakened from sleep, constantly irritated by intrusive noise.  The vibrations and rumble of the heavier vehicles, the damage to buildings caused by this, and the dangers of crossing or being near to suddenly far busier and more congested roads.
However because air pollution and noise pollution have clear ways of measurement and statutory limits set they provide the best ‘markers’ upon which to argue the case.                        
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While the financial chaos that has engulfed the project is not the primary issue for this group, it is one that the residents have paid attention to because the same failures in oversight and governance processes that for so long denied the truth of the problems in the financial, planning and project management areas of the project, continue to deny any reason for concern in the Health impacts of the scheme.

Yesterday’s (12th April) revelations in the Scotsman newspaper that once again the money may be running out --

http://www.scotsman.com/news/scottish-news/top-stories/edinburgh-trams-costs-hit-600m-with-two-years-to-go-1-2228972

-- has prompted John Carson a prominent critic of the flawed Edinburgh Tram scheme to release this graph he has produced.

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This shows the original length of track in 2003 being 28 Kilometres and the original budget costing around £15Million per kilometre of rail… £445 Million divided by 28.
The initial project budget required no borrowed money, but to push from Haymarket the relatively short distance to York Place has meant a need for borrowing. Therefore interest has had to be added and as the red line on the graph shows, the cost per kilometre is now heading way past a projected £140 Million for each kilometre, now to be built.
The graph is open ended because of course if the Scotsman story is correct even more money, and even more interest will be needed, and so the price per kilometre for the system will rise even further.

As John Carson himself now says, echoing Buzz Lightyear the Toy Story character: “The line on the graph is near vertical already and adding more costs will take us to infinity—and beyond!”

A little maths shows that the present final capital cost of the proposed line, right now is over £3,000 for eachinch of track, and rising.

The truth is that the figures are already “Off the Graph” and consequently the business case is in ruins, preserved only by the desperately, crazy ruse of ignoring all money spent to date, when considering ‘refreshed’ business cases for the extra £231 Million (and possibly now more) needed to push past Haymarket.

Presumably when the extra £231M runs out, and more does need to be borrowed, this £231M too will itself be removed from the record; renamed as ‘sunk costs’ and the Benefit-to-Cost Ratio (BCR) will again rise and prove what an even more fantastic project this is!

In that fantasy world it really is true that the less we build and the more it costs, the better the BCR gets - but John Carson’s graph shows the reality.

And for the residents group the real danger is that in constantly averting a delicate gaze away from a financial reality too ugly to contemplate lest it disturb the voters, the council also continue to turn away from the similarly equally as ugly realities of the impacts of the displacement of traffic from historical main through routes into the densely inhabited domestic streets of the city.

Whether in the area of Finance or Health and other impacts the council must sooner or later face the facts and tackle the problems and not keep running away from them.

  • Slow down the tram and make it share road-space with traffic - The Business case is long dead nothing on Earth can make that worse than it already is.
  • Tackle the ‘wider issues’ while these can still be tackled
  • Establish a Judge led inquiry as soon as possible this year to get at the truth. Not just to rake over old mistakes and apportion blame, but in order to get at the facts to be able to make the best of a bad job while we still have time.

 Ends