Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Edinburgh tram inquiry: Public hearings to start in September

Edinburgh Tram Image copyright Ian Georgeson

The inquiry into the Edinburgh trams project will begin public hearings in September.

The sessions for gathering oral evidence will take place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays of each week from 5 September.

The process is expected to span "several months".

Lord Hardie is leading the inquiry into the scheme, which went significantly over budget and was delivered years later than originally planned.

The probe was set up in 2014 by the then first minister Alex Salmond.

Evidence will be given by a number of witnesses who will be cited to appear.

It will supplement written statements from witnesses and the millions of documents already recovered during the course of investigations by the inquiry team.

'Inquiry milestone'

The inquiry's core participants may be allowed limited cross-examination of the speakers.

Lord Hardie said the announcement marks a milestone in the inquiry's progress.

"The oral hearings form an essential part of the important work of the inquiry and the evidence heard will play a crucial role in informing my final recommendations," he said.

"In advance of these hearings, a significant amount of activity has already taken place including identifying, retrieving and reviewing more than six million documents and the ongoing gathering of statements from a significant number of witnesses."

Lord Hardie has vowed to provide "robust recommendations" to ensure future infrastructure projects avoid the problems experienced by the scheme.

The trams began operating at the end of May 2014 after six years of disruption and a long-running dispute between City of Edinburgh Edinburgh Council and contractors.

The eventual cost of £776m was more than double the sum earmarked for the project by the previous Labour-led administration.

Figures out at the end of last year showed the city's tram network is running at an average of 25% capacity.

The hearings will take place at the inquiry's offices in Waterloo Place in the city.

Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative transport spokesman, said: "By the time the oral hearings into this fiasco get underway, it will have been more than three years since Lord Hardie was appointed.

"At the time, former First Minister Alex Salmond said the inquiry would be quick and thorough.

"We are now talking about an eye-watering bill of more than £8m.

"I would urge the Scottish government to confirm a publication date for the final report to at least provide some light at the end of the tunnel."

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