Edinburgh Tram (Line One) Bill

– in the Scottish Parliament at 3:30 pm on 29th March 2006.

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Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 3:30 pm, 29th March 2006

The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-4129, in the name of Jackie Baillie, on behalf of the Edinburgh Tram (Line One) Bill Committee, that the Parliament agrees that the Edinburgh Tram (Line One) Bill be passed.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour 3:54 pm, 29th March 2006

I will take great delight in moving the motion in my name. As I said earlier, it is approximately 50 years since trams ran in the streets of Edinburgh and, with the Parliament's consent, I hope that after today the situation will start to change.

Today represents the culmination of 27 months of hard work since the bill was introduced on 29 January 2003. Since the Parliament debated the preliminary stage report in March 2005, the Edinburgh Tram (Line One) Committee has undertaken around 110 hours of scrutiny and evidence taking, which culminated in the publication of our 77-page report on 1 March this year.

We have covered topics from badgers, bats and budgerigars to slipstreaming, bogies and dynamic kinematic envelopes—private bills are interesting creatures. I advise my colleagues to beware party whips asking small favours. Scott Barrie, who has now left the room, has a lot to answer for, because he promised me that the process would take a mere nine months. I now know more about trams than I could ever have imagined possible.

I thank my colleagues on the committee—Phil Gallie, Helen Eadie and Rob Gibson—who have worked long and hard in scrutinising the bill. At the start of the process, we agreed to be rigorous and fair in our scrutiny. Members have been dedicated in that pursuit, regularly meeting all day until 7 in the evening. Our consideration stage report provides a comprehensive analysis of the many detailed, technical and sometimes hotly debated issues that objectors raised.

I thank the staff from the private bills unit who were involved—Jane Sutherland, Carol Mitchell, James Burton and David Cullum—who are sitting in the room next door. They, along with the legal and technical advisers and the broadcasting and official report, staff stuck with us throughout the process and gave us valuable and professional advice and support.

I put on record the committee's thanks to others who participated in our scrutiny of the bill, including the promoter's witnesses and the objectors. From the beginning, the committee acknowledged the valuable role of objectors in our work. I thank all those who provided written and oral evidence during consideration stage. Ultimately, our role was to uphold or dismiss the issues that were raised in each objection. Our decision on each and every objection was justified and fair, and was based on the detailed evidence that we read and listened to in the past year. All the evidence contributed in some way to the bill that is before us now.

I must ask the Parliament roundly to reject Margaret Smith's amendment. As my colleague Helen Eadie will explain in great detail, the committee took considerable evidence on whether the trams should stop directly outside the Western general hospital. We reject the proposal because we believe that we have secured a measure that may well prove better in the long run—a feeder bus that will not only serve the front entrance of the hospital, but stop within the hospital grounds, where patients go.

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat

I hear what the member says. I will discuss the issue further but, for now, will the member clarify where the bill secures the future of the feeder bus service to the Western general hospital?

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

We have a written undertaking between the promoter and the committee, which is on the record and will be enforced. Further, NHS Lothian will have to be involved in any subsequent adjustments to the feeder bus service. A robust commitment has been given. The solution addresses objectors' concerns and those of NHS Lothian. I confess to being perplexed as to why Margaret Smith believes that, given the size of the Western general campus, a tram stop outside the hospital that does not serve the many internal hospital buildings is a better option. At no time in the history of the project has any Liberal Democrat member of the City of Edinburgh Council proposed such a stop, and nor does it have the support of the Minister for Transport and Telecommunications. I am disappointed that Margaret Smith seeks to ambush a much-needed project.

For members who have so far managed to avoid any exposure to the bill, I will briefly recap its purpose and history. Through the bill, the promoter seeks to construct and operate a tram running in a loop from St Andrew Square, along Leith Walk to Leith, west to Granton, south to Haymarket and then back to St Andrew Square along Princes Street. On 2 March 2005, the Parliament agreed to the general principles of the bill and agreed that it should proceed as a private bill. At the start of March 2006, at the end of phase one of consideration stage, the committee reported its decisions on the objections. During phase two of consideration stage, the committee amended the bill.

During last week's debate on the Edinburgh Tram (Line Two) Bill, members rightly commented on the funding for the tram lines. That issue exercised our committee, too. While my colleagues on the committee will address the many other issues that we have tackled, I will spend my time addressing the issue of funding.

During preliminary stage, the committee acknowledged that the bill seeks to acquire for the promoter the power to construct and operate a tram along the proposed route, but that it does not indicate how that should happen and when it should happen by. The committee heard evidence that, should both tram bills be passed by Parliament, the promoter would consider other ways of operating the tram, including a route from Leith to the airport. The committee commented on that issue in paragraphs 153 to 158 of its preliminary stage report. The committee undertook detailed scrutiny of the estimate of funding and expenses provided by the promoter. While the committee accepted that the information was what could reasonably be expected at that point in the process, it sought from the promoter during consideration stage updated information on a range of funding issues. At the end of evidence taking in January 2006, the promoter agreed that it would phase the construction and operation of line 1 to address the funding available for the project. That decision, taken so late in the committee's consideration of the bill, was unhelpful and caused some dismay to members and, of course, to objectors.

I shall focus finally on the phasing. Of more broad concern to the committee was the ability of the line 1 tram route to realise the policy objectives that the committee examined in detail during preliminary stage. The committee accepted that the tram was an integral part of the Edinburgh waterfront development, which spans from Leith waterfront to Granton. That development in turn was identified to contribute 55 per cent of the patronage for line 1. The harbour development is set to incorporate a population the size of Bathgate. If the strategic objective is to be realised, we must ensure that the waterfront section proceeds.

The committee welcomes the minister's decision to index link the £375 million contribution to the tram project, and it is reassured that the final decisions on Scottish Executive funding will be made by Scottish ministers only following receipt of a robust final business case, which I understand will happen over the summer.

The committee acknowledges that tram line 1 can bring many benefits to Edinburgh. As well as aiding economic growth, reducing congestion and encouraging a shift to public transport, the tram will bring social inclusion benefits. On balance, it is the committee's view that those benefits are of such a magnitude that they outweigh the individual impacts that some objectors believe may remain after mitigation.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees that the Edinburgh Tram (Line One) Bill be passed.

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat 4:02 pm, 29th March 2006

I thank the committee for its hard work over the past two years. I echo Jackie Baillie's comments about the impact on the committee of decisions that were taken by the City of Edinburgh Council on changes to the route; those decisions showed great disrespect to the Edinburgh Tram (Line One) Bill Committee, to the Parliament and to the process in which the committee was engaged. Jackie Baillie accuses me of ambush. Considering that I spoke to her last week and told her exactly what I was doing and why I was doing it, I hope that she accepts that it is a well-mannered type of ambush.

I am deeply sorry that I have had to lodge the amendment. People have many concerns about funding and about the fact that although parliamentary and public scrutiny have been conducted on the basis of a loop, now, because of the shortfall and the council's decision, we are left with a hybrid scheme. Hundreds of residents are left not knowing whether the line that we are debating will ever be built and how it will affect them. We look to the minister to continue the robust investigation of the business case. In passing, I thank the Executive and the minister for the index linking of the project.

However, the position regarding the Western general hospital in my constituency concerns me most. I feel that I have no alternative but to put on record my abiding concern that the tramline, as it is set out in the bill, is a missed opportunity. For the past few years in my constituency, and indeed in the preliminary stage debate in the Parliament last March, I have consistently supported the tram system in principle but raised my concerns about the route that has been chosen—a route that will not serve the Western general hospital directly and which will instead make use of a wildlife corridor that is used by thousands of people every day as a cycleway and walkway.

That is my first reason for lodging the amendment. The second reason is that when I approached the parliamentary clerks to try to lodge an amendment for the final stage proceedings, I was advised that I could not do that and that such an amendment was likely to be ruled inadmissible for a number of reasons, not least of which is the understandable one that if my amendment been agreed to, residents living on an alternative route would not have had any notification or any chance to object. I was also told that there would be myriad consequential amendments, which would necessitate so many changes that the clerks and draughtspeople would not be able to assist me.

As a constituency member, I was left with no alternative to challenge the route but to lodge the amendment after two years, on the last day of the bill's consideration—literally at the 11th hour. Constituents who have voted for MSPs expect that their local representatives should be able to influence the progress of major projects such as the tramline, but the reality is different. Local members are given three to four minutes to speak during the preliminary stage debate, no place on the committee and no chance to lodge amendments at consideration stage or at final stage. Today, our time is again understandably curtailed; we have had a fairly short period in which to digest the committee's report and scrutinise its amendments—many of which are welcome, by the way—and even less time to formulate our own amendments. We are nothing more than human rubber stamps in a private bill system that must be changed. I am glad that we have acknowledged that and I urge the Executive to take those issues into account in the development of the forthcoming transport and works bill.

I said earlier that I support the trams project. The tramlines have the potential to benefit residents and businesses throughout the city and to help Edinburgh to compete against its European competitors. However, I have consistently taken the view that a route that does not service the Western general hospital directly is a missed opportunity. That view is shared by many of my constituents and the vast majority of the public who responded to the consultation in 2003, when an outright majority voted for the tram to service the hospital.

Transport Initiatives Edinburgh Ltd went ahead with its preferred route and told many of us that the hospital could not be served for technical reasons. However, a crucial point is that NHS Lothian wants a direct service as well, despite everything that Jackie Baillie has told members about the feeder bus, the guarantee for which is not in the bill. In meetings that I have had recently, in briefing notes that I have received from NHS Lothian and in a conversation that I had with one of its directors today, it has been made clear to me that the health board considers what we have in front of us to be second best. It said:

"We remain very disappointed that the travel line proposed ... doesn't pass the principal public entrances to the Western General .... NHS Lothian has always viewed the proposed route for Tramline 1 as second best" and

"a major defect of the overall tram scheme."

The hospital is one of the largest employers in my constituency. It is a regional cancer centre and has tertiary services in cardiology and neuroscience. In 2004-05, there were 55,000 admissions and 125,000 out-patient attendances. On Crewe Road South, there are 15,000 travellers a day, all of whom should be given the option of getting on a tram.

When the National Audit Office gave evidence to the committee, it said that we should build tram systems where people are and which take people to where they want to be; we should not use disused railway lines for reasons of cost and speed but, for accessibility, we should connect to areas such as the Western general hospital. In fact, the committee acknowledges that in its report. Recent studies—such as the Faber Maunsell-Semaly report, which compares British and European schemes—support the view that one of the main reasons that United Kingdom systems have not achieved patronage is that they tend to use disused railway corridors because lines are cheaper to construct there. However, patronage along such lines is low. TIE cites reliability, speed and cost as reasons why it wants to use the Roseburn corridor; I cite the environment, patient care, social inclusion and common sense as the reasons why that decision should be challenged.

Some will say that a delay now will add an extra 18 months on to the process. That is not due to those who, like me, have objected; it is due to TIE and the decision that it has taken to bypass Edinburgh's second hospital.

I move amendment S2M-4129.1, to leave out from "agrees" to end and insert:

"does not agree that the Edinburgh Tram (Line One) Bill be passed because the tram route does not directly service the Western General Hospital."

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat 4:08 pm, 29th March 2006

Last week, the Parliament agreed to pass the Edinburgh Tram (Line Two) Bill. Today, we will decide whether to complete the Edinburgh tram network proposals that are before Parliament by agreeing to pass the Edinburgh Tram (Line One) Bill, which is the second part of a necessary investment in modern public transport in Scotland's capital.

The Parliament is indebted to the Edinburgh Tram (Line One) Bill Committee—to Jackie Baillie, for her spirited and cheerful convening, and to her colleagues, who have worked diligently and with much attention to detail on the issues that they have been confronted with. We also recognise the promoter, the advisers, the clerking team and all who have been associated with the project.

The Executive supports the tram scheme. We have confirmed our commitment to funding it by £375 million plus inflation. The challenge for the promoter and construction manager is to deliver efficiencies against that budget. The City of Edinburgh Council's decision in January to phase the construction of the tram network recognised the reality of the funding situation. The Scottish Executive funding, together with the £45 million that has been put forward by the council, will provide the necessary funds for the construction of the first phase from Leith to the airport.

I particularly want to say to Margaret Smith and to the Parliament that construction of the remaining phases of the network has not been ruled out. They could be completed if the underlying assumptions prove to be robust and future funding becomes available.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

I will be happy to give way when I have finished the point.

When I gave evidence to the committee in February, I said that there are many calls on the transport budget and that I could not make a commitment that future Executive funding will be made available. That remains the case, and I suggest that the Parliament would expect no less.

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative

When the minister decided on behalf of the Executive to sponsor and fund the loop, did he do so on the basis that money would be drawn down on a pro rata basis? Is he now saying that the money that the Executive is putting in—which, with inflation, might be £0.5 billion—will be given for the completion of only part of the route and that there will be a different funding package for any further developments?

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

As I made absolutely clear in my statement on major public transport projects, we will fund what is now in front of us—that is, the tram network between Leith and the airport—but that is dependent on the business case. That is our position.

Parliament is aware of the importance that I attach to transport projects being delivered on time and on budget and to their representing value for money. I am sure that Mr Davidson appreciates that. The work that the promoter has undertaken on phase 1 of the tram network gives me confidence that the economic benefits continue to represent value for money. However, continuous testing of the business case is critical. Before the summer recess, the promoter must complete a full update of the outline business case and present the results to Transport Scotland. Transport Scotland has in place review mechanisms for all the major public transport projects, including the Edinburgh tram project. Parliament can be confident that the public investment will be safeguarded by close monitoring of the project to ensure that value for money is maintained.

Why should we support the motion and the bill? Without the bill, there will be no tram network. On Margaret Smith's amendment to the motion, I readily understand her concern that the tram does not directly serve the Western general hospital, but we must recognise that the tram is only one part of the City of Edinburgh Council's plans to improve public transport in the city. As Jackie Baillie said, the committee heard in evidence at consideration stage that a new interchange between buses and trams at Crewe Toll will allow feeder buses to serve the Crewe Road South entrance to the Western general hospital. The feeder buses will operate at least as frequently as the tram. Given the City of Edinburgh Council's commitment to continue the existing bus services, there will be greatly improved public transport access to the Western general.

The creation of Transport Edinburgh Ltd, together with the Scottish Executive's investment in the tram network, will give Edinburgh the perfect opportunity to deliver for the city as a whole an improved integrated public transport network that serves the places to which people need and want to travel. I assure Margaret Smith and the Parliament that I will seek clear evidence from the City of Edinburgh Council, Transport Initiatives Edinburgh and Transport Edinburgh that those improvements will be delivered. Without that evidence, I will not give the go-ahead for the release of the Executive's investment.

I trust that the assurances that Margaret Smith has heard from the City of Edinburgh Council, from the bill committee and from me make it clear that the Western general hospital will be fully taken into account and that the tram represents a significant improvement in public transport access to the hospital. I therefore ask Margaret Smith to withdraw her amendment.

There is significant development in the north of Edinburgh. As the promoter stated in evidence to the committee, a community the size of Bathgate is being built in and around Leith docks. The first phase of the tram network will serve two thirds of the proposed waterfront development. The experience of Nottingham and other cities gives us confidence that the tram scheme will encourage a shift from cars and help to reduce congestion.

The tram is necessary to encourage and support economic development in the north of the city. The scheme will improve the local infrastructure, but it will also help to safeguard the continued economic growth of the city and the region and the growth of the Scottish economy. Last week, the Parliament showed its support for Edinburgh trams. I strongly urge the Parliament to support the motion and the bill today.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party 4:14 pm, 29th March 2006

We will support Margaret Smith's amendment and will not be able to support the motion if it remains unamended.

To some extent, the debate is a rerun of last week's debate on the Edinburgh Tram (Line Two) Bill. As with last week, I thank those who served on the committee. However, this is not how legislation should be made and it is certainly not how major infrastructure projects should be taken forward. I believe that there is consensus on that view in the chamber. The tragedy is that committees have already been created to deal with the rail links to Edinburgh and Glasgow airports. We support those projects, but we must change the way in which such matters are dealt with, because it does not serve committee members well and it is not the best way of making legislation.

We concur heartily with Margaret Smith's comments. We oppose the Edinburgh Tram (Line One) Bill for the same reasons that we opposed the Edinburgh Tram (Line Two) Bill last week. We have no objection in principle to trams. After all, why should not Edinburgh aspire to having a tram scheme at some stage? However, is such a scheme the immediate priority? Is it the right scheme? The short answer to both questions is most certainly no. This is the wrong scheme at the wrong time.

Jackie Baillie was being disingenuous when she tried to make light of the distance from the tram stop to the Western general hospital. We are not talking about a small distance or even a small amount of money. Half a billion pounds is being spent on what is supposed to be a state-of-the-art tram scheme, but in order to serve one of our major hospitals, we will have to lay on a shuttle bus from the tram stop. That is utterly insane and is certainly not a feature of a state-of-the-art scheme. Indeed, the point that I made about tramline 2's service to the Royal Bank of Scotland applies to tramline 1 and its ability to serve the Western general hospital. This scheme will not deliver what it should deliver for the amount of money that is being invested in it.

Moreover, this scheme is not the most important transport priority in Scotland. The minister is correct to say that the transport budget has many calls on it, but there appears to have been no call on it to ensure that we have the flagship station at Waverley that he mentioned last week and which we fully support. Waverley station is vital not just to the interests of Edinburgh as a capital city that aspires to compete with European competitors, but to public transport movements in east, central and indeed all of Scotland. After all, trains come into the city from east, west, north and south. We must ensure that there is adequate access to the city; because that access does not exist at the moment, our first priority for investment must be Waverley station. However, the Executive has not committed to that project as yet.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

That is absolute rubbish. What about the £150 million for phase 1?

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

The Executive might have committed to phase 1, but it has not committed itself to phase 2.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

I wonder whether Mr MacAskill can tell me the exact transport and railway advantages of phase 2.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

It is quite clear that phase 1 does not go far enough with regard to access. It is also disingenuous to suggest that phase 2 is simply about property development—it most certainly is not. Everyone who is involved in the rail sector has made it clear that phase 1, although welcome, is a stop-gap scheme and does not go far enough. We need phase 2, not simply because it addresses certain aesthetic considerations of a major part of the city of Edinburgh but because of what we must deliver.

People have talked about hypocrisy. I point out that someone said, with regard to another scheme:

"Clearly it does not represent the best value for money ... or the best use of public money—particularly when compared to alternative proposals put forward ... for top of the range rapid bus scheme ...

This would deliver significant transport benefits locally and be an opportunity to develop a first of its kind, showcase bus system".

That was Alastair DarlingSecretary of State for Transport and one of the MPs for this wonderful city. He has repudiated tram schemes not only in Leeds but in Portsmouth and Liverpool, because he has realised that they do not provide best value. That is why we oppose this tram proposal.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

I cannot—I am in my final minute.

This is the wrong scheme. It fails to deliver what is necessary for the city of Edinburgh and it is not the major strategic priority for Scotland. That priority must be Waverley station. Spending £0.5 billion to lay on a shuttle bus from a tram stop to the Western general is an insane use of public money.

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative 4:19 pm, 29th March 2006

First, I acknowledge the diligence of committee members and clerks in dealing with this enabling bill. Committee members must be dreadfully disappointed with the council's U-turn on the project, because the scheme that we are asked to approve today is neither the one that is in the bill nor, I suspect, the one that the minister first agreed to fund.

Questions arise from the minister's response today. He stated that he will now provide the funding that he said he would provide for the total scheme for only part of the scheme. We are now totally dependent on the minister's intervention when the business case is eventually produced towards the summer.

However, we must query what Margaret Smith is trying to do. No one in their right mind would want to run a tramline through the middle of a hospital building to make it accessible.

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat

If members know the location of the Western general hospital, they will know that as well as that hospital on Crewe Road South, where I suggest that the tram stop should be located, there is Telford College—that area will be opened up to new housing—thousands of homes, Fettes College, Lothian and Borders police headquarters, Broughton high school, Flora Stevenson primary school, two hospital sites and the Napier University nursing college. All the clinical buildings at the Western general are front loaded to the front of the site at Crewe Road South.

Photo of David Davidson David Davidson Conservative

I thank the member for that guided tour of a hospital in which some members of my family have been treated. Despite all that, there must be a flexible system when there is a multisite campus of any description. I am sure that a feeder bus is the best option.

I agree with one point that Margaret Smith made about the process. A local member can turn up at a council planning committee and speak on behalf of their constituents at all stages of a hearing on a proposal, but apparently that cannot happen in the Parliament. That seems strange, and I agree that we must examine the process for the future. However, it is not for me to decide on the process.

I have made my point about the £0.5 billion. We are dependent on the assurances of the minister. The route from Haymarket down to Granton appears to be almost self-supporting, which is more than can be said for an awful lot of the rest of the route. Our councillors on the City of Edinburgh Council supported—and we agree with them—the route from Leith to the airport, and supported the eventual link down to Granton only when the proposed development at Granton, which will be a huge facility, is under way.

I am always sceptical about tram schemes, because they are not flexible—it is not possible to move them to another route. We must decide what we are trying to deal with.

I pay tribute to the committee. More than money is involved; there are also the issues, which were raised earlier, of noise, access and safety if the Roseburn corridor is used. Trams, children, animals and bicycles cannot mix safely on a narrow route. I remember being taken as a child, by my grandfather, from Leith up to town on the train on that route, which is not very wide.

We are sceptical about whether the scheme will happen. We are considering an enabling bill, which will give permission for the scheme, but if the council is starting to backtrack after two years of work by the Edinburgh Tram (Line One) Bill Committee up to January of this year, what else will it backtrack on? Perhaps there needs to be a sunset clause. We are dependent on the minister to deliver that.

When the minister winds up, I hope that he will give us the assurance that the Parliament requires that if he doubts in any way the financial viability of the scheme, he will say so publicly and deny it funding. Of course, if we have a new Executive after 2007 it might not operate on a blank cheque basis.

Photo of Helen Eadie Helen Eadie Labour 4:23 pm, 29th March 2006

I agree with Jackie Baillie's comments. We are delighted that we have come to the end of the line on the bill. Like her, I will in the future hide from the whips.

The committee recognised from the start of consideration stage that a substantial number of objections recommended alternative routes to that which was proposed by the promoter of the Edinburgh Tram (Line One) Bill. By far the largest number of objections proposed that the line should not run along the Roseburn railway corridor, but should stop outside the front entrance of the Western general hospital. Objectors believed that that would better serve the Western general hospital than would the proposed route, which is some 700m from the front entrance of the hospital.

The objectors stated that the social inclusion benefits of the tram could be enhanced by allowing passengers to exit the tram immediately adjacent to the entrance to the hospital. They proposed a number of on-road routes by which that could be achieved, and the committee received a considerable volume of evidence on those proposed alternative routes. Objectors disputed almost every aspect of the route's selection and appraisal procedure and challenged almost every piece of evidence that the promoter provided. That presented the committee with considerable evidence from which to reach its decisions.

In relation to the range of on-road routes proposed, the committee was mindful of such issues as cost as well as technical feasibility. Balanced against that, the committee recognised that, all things being equal, the tram stopping outside the front entrance of the hospital would be a good thing. A number of the proposed alternative routes utilised Douglas Gardens and/or the Dean bridge. In considering the evidence on routes using Douglas Gardens, which has a gradient along the road of 8.9 per cent, the committee concluded that there would be serious cost repercussions, given the fact that a non-standard tram car—of which there is only one type—would have to be procured. In relation to Dean bridge, which is a grade I listed bridge, the committee agreed with the promoter's evidence that it presented considerable engineering difficulties as well as other difficulties such as where overhead line equipment could be located and the problem of relocating utilities, as well as unknown factors such as the stability of the arch.

As a result, the committee agreed that it would not uphold those alternative alignments. That left one remaining alternative route, which proposed running on-road past the front entrance of the Western general hospital before rejoining the Roseburn railway corridor near Sainsbury's. Early on in the consideration stage, the promoter brought forward a proposal to provide a feeder bus service from the proposed stop on the Roseburn railway corridor near Crewe Toll to the front entrance of the hospital. In oral evidence, the promoter then confirmed that such a service would be of the same frequency as a tram and would have integrated ticketing with the tram.

I have to say, with passion, that I was one of the people who campaigned strongly—with Phil Gallie—in the committee to have that server bus. We recognised that for anyone arriving and presenting at the hospital—whether they had come by tram or by bus—it would be far better to have a bus taking them directly into the hospital campus than to have them walking many metres right round the hospital campus.

Photo of Helen Eadie Helen Eadie Labour

I say for Margaret Smith's benefit that I have a copy of the written undertaking from the office of the City of Edinburgh Council guaranteeing that that bus service will be there for an initial five years with an on-going commitment to that service never being unreasonably withheld or delayed.

The reality may be that this is by far the best option for the Western general hospital. Existing bus services will not be jeopardised, and a connecting bus will penetrate into the hospital grounds. Although a few would, perhaps, have benefited from a tram going to the gate, many others might have suffered if existing bus services were compromised. What we have now may well represent the best of both worlds. For that reason, I urge members to vote against Margaret Smith's amendment.

The aim of Margaret Smith's amendment is to secure direct access to the Western general hospital, but the committee has already done that through the unilateral undertaking that was given by the promoter to provide a direct feeder bus service that will enable all public transport users to access not only the front entrance of the hospital, but buildings within the grounds.

I and my fellow committee members acknowledge the hard work that was done and time that was taken by the objectors in researching and presenting their case for the alternative tram routes that were proposed.

Photo of Helen Eadie Helen Eadie Labour

In supporting the promoter's route with the addition of the feeder bus service, the committee believes that it has gone even further to ensure that the hospital is accessible to all who use its facilities than either the objectors or the promoter could originally have envisaged.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I regret that, because of lack of time, I am unable to call any back benchers. We move to the winding-up speeches and I call Margaret Smith. Ms Smith, you have four minutes.

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat 4:29 pm, 29th March 2006

I have heard what committee members have said about the feeder buses. In paragraph 339 of the committee's report, on the issue of accessibility, the committee concludes that

"a tram stop on Crewe Road South would be preferable to the promoter's proposed stop on the Roseburn Railway Corridor."

Clearly, the committee's decision to move away from that has been influenced partly by the assurances that it feels are in place for the provision of the feeder bus. Initially, when objectors, NHS Lothian, the committee and I began our work, the feeder bus option was not on the table. Members must not forget that. The feeder bus is anywhere near this argument simply because of the force of arguments that were put about the lack of a stop at the Western general.

However, we now have a system whereby people will use a tram. We are talking about thousands of people going to a hospital and thousands of others going to the other places that I mentioned in my response to David Davidson. People will have to leave the tram and get on a bus to continue their journey. With a state-of-the-art, top-notch public tram system surely we are trying to encourage as many people as possible to use that system and leave their cars at home. Adding an extra mode of transport to a journey makes that less achievable than it might have been had the tram stop been located at the front door of the Western general.

Photo of Susan Deacon Susan Deacon Labour

Does the member acknowledge that at least the Western general will be serviced by the proposed tramlines, unlike the Edinburgh royal infirmary in my constituency? The ERI is now not being offered tramline 3, not least because the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party and others engaging in political opportunism in Edinburgh said that congestion charging was the wrong scheme at the wrong time, with the result that tramline 3 is not being funded. Perhaps we need to stop talking about wrong schemes and wrong times and start talking about a transport network that is right for the city.

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat

I have no problem with supporting the idea of a tram network and I have had no problem with supporting the beginnings of both tramlines, which is obviously a step too far for many people in the council. We need a network, but when the Local Government and Transport Committee considered the Transport (Scotland) Bill last year, it agreed to have transport systems that fed into hospitals and other health services. That was a crucial point, which I was happy to support. That is what I am trying to carry on today, but we are spending an awful lot of taxpayers' money on a scheme that does the complete opposite.

I am sure that some members have used the great services at the Western general hospital and they will know that the hospital has a major parking and transport problem. That affects local residents and the clinical care of people who cannot find a parking space when they attend the hospital. I do not want to do anything to jeopardise the reduction in the number of people who use private vehicles to get to the hospital. We have no statutory guarantee about the feeder bus services. We have oral assurances and a letter. We are assured that the bus service will be there for five years, but that is not the lifetime of a tram. If the tram had served the front of the Western general hospital, it would also have served many people other than those who use the hospital.

The chosen route is not necessarily the best route for the environment. The promoter accepted that there would be a significant adverse impact on the Roseburn corridor because of the choice not to serve the Western general hospital directly. The National Audit Office said that it is absolutely crucial to choose the correct route for the tram systems.

The Scottish Executive must be applauded for supporting the project. I welcome the minister's comments about the Haymarket to Granton spur and the scrutiny and monitoring of the business case.

The trams represent a good opportunity for Edinburgh—an opportunity to integrate bus and tram services and to serve new and emerging parts of the city. It is a modern transport system, but this is the wrong route.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. As a back bencher with an interest in transport in the city of Edinburgh and a local member, I have sat here patiently with a particular point to make about what the minister said. Is it possible for the time available for the debate to be extended? If it is not possible, how can we redress the imbalance between members who have spoken three or four times today and those of us who have not been able to speak at all?

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I remind you that decisions about timing are made by the Parliamentary Bureau and that members agreed a timetable for the debate earlier today. I am sure that the minister will take an intervention when he makes his speech. I regret that I was not able to call back benchers; I try very hard to do so when I am in the chair.

On another issue, I remind members—especially those who are in committee room 6—to switch off their mobile phones. I know that members have been having phone conversations next door because I was there a minute ago. We cannot hear properly when you do that, so please switch off your mobile phones in committee room 6.

Photo of Sarah Boyack Sarah Boyack Labour 4:34 pm, 29th March 2006

I welcome the changes that the committee has made to the bill while discussing it over the past two years. I welcome the tighter timescales that will reduce uncertainty for residents and businesses along the route. I welcome the noise monitoring scheme, and the compensation scheme that is to be made available during construction. I welcome the fact that the Parliament today agreed to Margaret Smith's amendments—amendments 10 and 11—which will require grants and noise insulation work to be provided where appropriate. I welcome the new landscaping plans. Finally, I welcome the huge amount of work that has been undertaken in scrutinising the financial and business case for the project.

Attempts have been made to learn from the National Audit Office report. We have provided for integration with buses, we have re-examined the management and procurement processes and we have ensured that the tramlines go along the correct routes. Those points will now be required to be taken on board by the promoter.

The opportunity for Edinburgh that we have in front of us today will not be available to us again for a long time. The trams represent a massive financial investment by the Scottish Executive in our capital city, which we all know faces significant transport issues. It will be a pity if we divide along party lines today, especially given our previous debates on transport in the city. One challenge for the future is to think about how on earth we can generate support for major long-term investment despite the pretty disastrous events of the past few years.

With the Scottish Executive's commitment to the project subject to the revised business case that will be published later this year, we are in the difficult position of knowing that the bill before us cannot be implemented with the amount of money currently on the table. That leaves people with many difficult choices. I have every sympathy with the council members from across the political parties who had to try to arrive at a sensible way forward and ensure that as much of the network as possible is built, but that outcome is not the best available. Other transport projects in Scotland that have received funding from the Executive and cross-party parliamentary support have gone ahead even when their costs rose by a factor of two or three. I know that the transport agency will help to grapple with such problems in future, but it will be unfortunate if the tramline scheme becomes a victim of such problems just now.

We have received representations from the business community, developers in the north of the city, Scottish Gas, Telford College, and people involved in the waterfront development, telling us that the tram scheme is needed for economic prosperity. I believe that we must just go ahead with it.

I have sympathy with Margaret Smith's desire to ensure that the tram provides better access to the Western general. It is our job to ensure that the promoter delivers on the written legal agreement by providing pedestrian access to the back of the hospital and a feeder bus network around the whole hospital campus for everyone else.

Let us recognise that, at the start of the 21st century,

"the route ahead for the City of Edinburgh is a light rail network that adds to both existing and reopened lines and that complements and dovetails with other current and future modes of travel."

That is what the bill will give us.

"Better ... to take our time to get it right than progress at pace and repent at leisure. Moreover in transport like most other things in life you get what you pay for. Do it on the cheap and you'll get the quality it merits. The vision for Edinburgh has to be to aspire to be a truly Capital City."

Those are the words of Kenny MacAskill in the submission that he made six years ago to the trams4edinburgh website. I whole-heartedly agreed with him at the time.

However, it will take from today until the end of 2010 for phase 1 to be delivered and until 2015 for the Haymarket to Granton section. When will we ever get the right scheme at the right time? The time is now. We must put our money where our mouths are and vote for the tram scheme. The funding will be scrutinised by the Executive, but we must vote for the scheme today.

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative 4:39 pm, 29th March 2006

It is highly unsatisfactory that, as events have turned out, the Parliament has ended up considering two separate bills for tramlines 1 and 2, especially given that the two lines will never be constructed in their entirety. Accordingly, aspects of our deliberations have had an air of unreality.

The committee's frustration with the council's phasing decision are well expressed in paragraph 25 of its consideration stage report, which Jackie Baillie echoed earlier. Jackie Baillie and the report stated the case diplomatically, but some might less generously conclude that the bill is a false prospectus and that the wool is being pulled over our eyes.

In reality, the proposed line that we are considering will run from Ocean Terminal to the airport, with a possible add-on from Haymarket to Granton. As I said in last week's debate, I am confident about the viability of the line from Leith to Haymarket, but I am highly sceptical about the viability of the tramline section that will go towards the airport as that will compete with the rail link. I am also sceptical about the funding of the section from Haymarket to Granton. However, phases 2 and 3 of the tram network are, frankly, little more than figments of a fevered imagination that have absolutely no chance of surviving the next comprehensive spending review. The minister's lukewarm remarks on funding spoke volumes about the fate of those two phases.

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

No. I am sorry, but I have a lot to get through.

One of the key indicators in the minister's funding decision is the benefit to cost ratio of the project as a whole. That was originally estimated at 1.21 for line 1 and 1.4 for line 2. Calculations were provided on the effect of the rail link on the benefit to cost ratio for line 2, but it appears that the figures for the benefit to cost ratios for the new phases are closely guarded secrets, not to be disclosed until after the legislation has been approved.

Last week in the Parliament, the minister told us:

"The current evidence indicates a healthy benefit to cost ratio."—[Official Report, 22 March 2006; c 24243.]

At a meeting of the Edinburgh Tram (Line One) Bill Committee, he said in relation to the first phase of the project:

"The initial work on the new proposal suggests that the benefit to cost ratio is healthy".—[Official Report, Edinburgh Tram (Line One) Bill Committee, 7 February 2006; c 1778.]

Apparently, it is so healthy and robust that it cannot be disclosed.

One of my many correspondents on the subject of trams is a lady called Alison Bourne, who gave evidence to the Edinburgh Tram (Line One) Bill Committee. Following his statement to the committee, she asked the minister what was the benefit to cost ratio of the first phase from the airport to Ocean Terminal, for the second phase from Haymarket to Granton and for the two combined. The answer that was provided to her by Transport Scotland on behalf of the minister was that all the information was commercially confidential and that it would weaken the position of TIE in a competitive environment to reveal market-sensitive information. Frankly, that is not good enough. How can the benefit to cost ratio figures be produced for the purposes of the construction of line 1 in its entirety, but suddenly become commercially confidential when someone quite properly requests an analysis by reference to the phases—a question that is particularly pertinent, given that the loop as a whole is highly unlikely to be built? It does not make sense. I believe that the refusal to disclose highly relevant information has nothing to do with procurement and everything to do with a reluctance to disclose that the ratio is positive for one section of the line—from Ocean Terminal to Haymarket—but a disaster for others.

Despite our reservations, we supported the Edinburgh Tram (Line Two) Bill last week and we will support the Edinburgh Tram (Line One) Bill this week. That support is intended only to provide a legal framework for the project. We remain highly dubious about the overall viability of the network. Our support for the bill should not be taken as support for any funding decision that the minister may make. We shall judge that in light of the business case that is presented by the promoter and what we see as the transport priorities of Scotland when such funding decisions fall to be taken.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party 4:43 pm, 29th March 2006

I concur fully with David McLetchie's point that, to some extent, we are not voting on tramline 1. Rather, we are voting for a void—for what may be presumed to be going to happen and for whatever spin TIE is giving us at the moment. It was kind of Sarah Boyack to quote my words, and I am happy to stand by them. Ultimately, a tram scheme probably would benefit Edinburgh.

Reference has been made to European competitors and capitals. However, the difference is that they tend to build up a pyramid structure by getting the basis right and moving forward from there. They have tram systems that are regulated and rail networks that have local provision, like the south suburban line. They have a bus network that is not increasing its fares as a result of spending going in other directions. Having delivered the other aspects of transport that are necessary, they add to those by building a tram system that can provide significant benefits. They do not seek to have an unregulated transport network. The front page of today's edition of the Edinburgh Evening News states:

"The wheels on the bus fall off and off".

The reference is to the poor-quality service that is being provided. As Mr Fox, who is not present today, mentioned, the price that Lothian Buses charges for fares is increasing.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

I do not have time to give way. The problems that I have mentioned are not acceptable in a European context and should not be acceptable here. We do not know what we are voting for.

The other matter of great concern is that we do not know the final cost of the scheme. The minister has made the final commitment that he is prepared to see made by the Scottish Executive, but those of us who have a duty to look after the interests of the capital and to consider the costs that will have to be borne by council tax payers must look at other issues. It is disingenuous of Ms Deacon to refer to congestion charging; we were told at one stage that congestion charging had nothing to do with tramline 3. Apparently, the tramline was not predicated on that.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

I do not have time, as I said to the member's colleague. The fact is that congestion charging was related and the council was seeking to introduce tramline 3 in that way. That shows how out of touch the City of Edinburgh Council is with the mood of the city. It got it wrong on congestion charging and housing stock transfer and it is getting it wrong on trams.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

I do not have time.

The trams represent not just a significant capital cost. They will have on-going revenue implications that will have to be borne. If we cannot increase fare-box charging, we will have to find another method of funding the scheme. That will not come from congestion charging and it will have to be borne by the council tax payer. We will be left with a system that simply will not operate and we face being left with a pig in a poke.

Instead of looking at what I said six years ago, Ms Boyack should look at the words of her party colleague, the Secretary of State for Scotland who is also the Secretary of State for Transport south of the border. He decided that the tram schemes in Leeds, Portsmouth and Liverpool are not best value. He was reported in the Yorkshire Post as saying that

"the tram was not 'value for money' with a price tag now of £486m compared with the approved figure of £355m in 2001, and that a 'showcase' bus scheme would deliver benefits at half the cost."

We also note Mr Darling's views in the Edinburgh Evening News on Monday 7 November 2005:

"In September, it emerged that the cost of re-introducing trams to Edinburgh had soared by almost £340m to £714m after initial estimates did not take inflation into account."

Much as I am glad that Ms Boyack is glad to take advice from me, at some stage she should perhaps look to her colleague in the Labour Party and realise that the tram scheme is wrong, it is the wrong time for it and it is not Scotland's priority; Waverley station is.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat 4:47 pm, 29th March 2006

In that case, I will make three brief points. First, I say to members across the chamber who expressed a view on the economic and business case that, before any investment is made, strict and objective criteria are applied through the business gateway and the quarterly reviews to any investment decisions that we make on capital transport projects. That is absolutely the case for this project, as for any other.

I assure Mr McLetchie that patronage is one of the components of the business case. As I said earlier this afternoon, the outline business case must be approved before the summer recess, including those aspects that he mentioned. I am pleased that the Conservatives support the Edinburgh Tram (Line One) Bill this afternoon.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

If it is found after the business case has been scrutinised as it should be that there is a shortfall on the council's part, could the Executive lend the council money to make sure that a link is established between Granton and Newhaven?

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat


Helen Eadie made sensible arguments about Margaret Smith's points on the Western general and I can only repeat the assurances that the promoter and the bill committee gave in relation to that undertaking. I cannot support the contention that we should enshrine bus services in statute, although I understand the seriousness of Margaret Smith's point. I hope that the Parliament will not accept her amendment this afternoon.

I finish by responding to Mr MacAskill, who made two speeches about Edinburgh politics rather than about what is an important transport investment for Scotland. We appreciate that he admitted to his flip-flop on the matter, but it always seems to be the wrong time for the SNP. That party would never make the investment decisions that we need in Scotland, nor indeed, in this case, in Edinburgh. Mr MacAskill made a couple of disingenuous remarks about both Waverley and the integrated nature of transport in Scotland. Frankly, he was a disappointment once again.

The tram scheme is a good project for Edinburgh and Scotland and I hope that the Parliament votes for it this afternoon.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative 4:49 pm, 29th March 2006

I start by saying how sorry I am that my colleague Rob Gibson has not been called to speak; he had important points to make about construction programmes and noise, although we have heard quite a lot about that today.

As I have only seven minutes in which to speak, I will start at the back end and offer some thanks. I thank Jackie Baillie, who was the committee convener, and Helen Eadie and Rob Gibson for being a joy to work with, believe it or not. Jackie said a lot earlier about noise and I reckon that she read her notes well, but she is an expert on noise and controlled the committee well. As well as thanking my colleagues, it would be right to thank the clerks and other parliamentary staff, particularly the audio staff, who kept me well equipped with earphones.

We should not forget the promoter's team, who did extremely well, nor should we forget the objectors. I was impressed all the way through the exercise by the standard of the objectors. It was not an easy task for them to deal with the technical detail that was put before them and argue with the so-called experts, but they did it magnificently. They certainly prepared a case that gave the committee a lot to think about when we took evidence.

There was a considerable amount of technical evidence and we were reliant in the main on the promoter's expert witnesses. We took much of the technical evidence as it was stated, and although we did query, press and delve—and did bring change—at the end of the day we were to a large extent reliant on the experts' information.

Similarly, we were reliant on the promoter for the forecast of costs. Quite honestly, the committee dealt with costs all the way through the consideration stage. We kept asking about costs and were informed that they were on schedule as previously stated. We all know now that that was not the case, and that certainly concerned the committee. We have expressed our concern in our report.

The other aspect that was continually hammered home to the committee about tramline 1 was that the circular route was all-embracing and there could be no deviation from it—it was set in stone. As we all know now, the route was changed in the latter stage. However, it is interesting to note that the committee queried in the preliminary stage whether there would be benefit in having an all-through service with tramline 2 linking with tramline 1 right down to Leith. We raised that point, but were told that it was not an issue.

I say to Kenny MacAskill that what we have now is, effectively, an enabling bill. The pressures are now on the councillors and the minister to ensure that the project is delivered at a reasonable cost and that the costs are fully justified and in line with all the assurances that we have been given.

I turn now to the objectors, some of whom will feel that, after months of hard work, the bill has gone through in any case and that there has been nothing in it for them. I would say that they were wrong in that view. Many changes have been made to the bill. Helen Eadie described the situation with respect to the Western general hospital. I sympathise with Margaret Smith's view on that, but the committee did consider the issue. We visited the site and walked around it. We thought about the possible implications of a tram stop and the extent of the effect that would have on travel times from Haymarket down to Granton. We took account of all that and that is why Helen Eadie and I supported and accepted the bus-link option that was delivered for us.

When we consider the loop of the whole route, we can see what the objectors achieved. The change of route at Haymarket, for example, started the process. We got that change of route, other amendments were made and the evidence is there for all to see. There were objectors who pointed to traffic blockage problems that will come about on Queen Street. We say to the councillors—this is also in our report—that they must address that at an early stage and not wait until the line is constructed. They should get stuck in now and find solutions.

The committee listened to Newhaven community council's plea for Victoria primary school's garden to be saved and the promoter went along with a change that achieved that, so that plea was worth while.

Although it may not seem that Robert Drysdale's work on the alternative route at Starbank has been worth while, the fact is that the committee did go and walk the route on more than one occasion. On each occasion, we decided that the promoter's route was marginally more beneficial—although our view was weighted by considerations of time factors for each of the alternatives, which we had to take into account.

Much has been said about the Western general hospital and I will not say anything further.

Roseburn residents will be disappointed that the Roseburn corridor will be used for the tramline, but the committee made various improvements. For example, we secured improvements on property values, animal life and the landscape and habitat management plan. We took objectors' views into account.

Overall, the members of the committee believe that we have done a reasonable job. The bill could never have been perfect, and there were disappointments. For me, one such disappointment was that we did not set a 40mph speed limit. I did not flip-flop on that; I was consistent.

We now look to the minister, to councillors and to the promoter to ensure that, if or when this project goes ahead, it goes ahead in a properly costed way that provides value for money and meets all the criteria that we would expect it to meet.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I suspend the meeting until 5 o'clock to allow members to come in to vote.

Meeting suspended.

On resuming—