POLITICS
26/08/2011 07:15 BST | Updated 26/10/2011 06:12 BST

Edinburgh Tram Fiasco Plumbs New Depths

The Edinburgh Tram project has suffered another embarrassing setback after councillors decided the tram network would not even stop in the very centre of the city.

Edinburgh Council has decided that the trams will only run from the city's airport to Haymarket station, almost a mile from the centre of the city. The decision raises the chances of the whole project - already massively over-budget and behind schedule - becoming even more of white elephant.

The decision to stop the trams in the suburbs is a money-saving bid. The council would have to borrow an extra £231m to send the trams all the way into St Andrews Square. This would have linked the airport with Waverley railway station and the headquarters of some of Scotland's biggest financial firms.

The original budget for the tram system was £540m, and SNP and Labour councillors had been keen to stop the costs from spiralling any further. The decision to stop the trams at Haymarket was the result of a Labour amendment backed by the SNP, which will avoid the project ending up costing more than £1bn.

Business leaders have reacted with horror. Graham Birse, deputy chief executive at Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, told Radio Scotland: "Businesses across Edinburgh are dismayed this morning. They feel let down. They have endured five years of pain for no evident gain with this solution."

Perhaps most embarrsingly for Scotland and Edinburgh Council, many of the tram lines - the building of which have caused traffic chaos in the centre of Edinburgh for many years - now seem unlikely to be ever used.