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The Edinburgh Tram System project is credited for bringing back trams in the streets of Edinburgh. It was the first time that the streets got the Trams in almost 50 years. It is worth noting that the project took more than the allocated time for completion due to several delays. In addition, the scheme upon completion had used nearly double the budgeted amount (Boateng et al, 2012). As the project rumbled on, several readjustments had to be made on the initial project’s plan. Initially, the planners had the idea that there would be other lines connected to the tram network, but with the readjustments made, it is now a part of the original lines. The planners had intended the network to reach the Newhaven and Leith’s waterfront.

Description of the Project

The tram network was meant to decongest the city streets. The saga that rocked the construction of the tram network goes back to September 2003. Back then, it had been earmarked by Scottish executives that the project would cost around 375 million pounds, and that it would start operating by 2009 (Brocklehurst 2014). The main idea behind the project was that the network would link the city streets to the Edinburgh and Leith airports, something that five years down the line was not possible. Even though the streets of Edinburgh have trams, it is one routed, a diversion from what was initially envisaged.

On completion of the project, people wonder how it became completed considering all the disputes that arose along the way. The tram network is a 14km route stretching from Edinburgh airport to York Place, located in the city center. One of the disputes that arose on the project was the huge amount of money that it would take upon completion. Initially, the project was thought to cost 375 million pounds, but the costs soared up to 776 million pounds plus interest of 200 million pounds for the loan that the council took to fund the project (Brocklehurst 2014 ).

Description of the Project Management

One of the hurdles that the project faced was SNP’s scrapping it after Nationalists had formed the first-ever minority government in the country. It is through the decision of the other parties in the Scottish parliament to overturn the Nationalist’s idea that the project survived. The other issue that had made the project to stall was the bitter dispute that existed between the project’s main contractor and arms-length company tasked with bringing trams to the city. This dispute halted the project for almost 4 months. The main contractor (Bilfinger Berger) was described by the then chairman of Transport Edinburgh, David Mackay, as a “delinquent company that smelled a victim (Whitelegg, 2014).” Mackay went on to label the whole project “hell on wheels”. Contractual restrictions made the German construction giant remain silent on facts about the dispute.

TIE’s handling of the whole project evoked varying emotions among the concerned stakeholders with Bilfinger Berger feeling frustrated by how the whole project was handled. During the construction of the tram network, the contractors caused more congestion in the streets by digging up vital roads on Leith and Edinburgh city center (Whitelegg 2014). The traffic congestion in the city caused inconveniences that culminated in financial losses to businesses. People started becoming skeptical about the idea as it caused more harm than they had anticipated. Edinburgh streets had been turned into what looked like building sites. Locals often suggest that the city has Britain’s best bus services and thus there was no need for the city council to come up with the new transport system.

Analysis of the Project Management Against Theory

Initially, the project was dependant on the revenues got from the road-charging system that the city council had introduced. The system put in place was similar to that introduced in London. It did not take long before controversies and a public outcry on the controversial road tolls meat that the council suspend them. However, the project sailed on, only that this time it was funded by funds from the Scottish government. Following the government’s involvement on the project, parliament members made their way to Holyrood, where they found out that the cost of projected had soared up to 539 million pounds (Whitelegg 2014). These new estimates made the city council shelve the idea of the construction of the Edinburgh airport-Newbridge and Granton-Newhaven sections.

Scottish parliamentary elections also halted the progress of the Edinburgh Tram System project. The new SNP that came into power after the elections tried to scrap away the trams project, a move that later on proved futile. The opposition parties ganged on SNP and through the majority votes, they forced the council to fork out 500 million pounds to support the tram projects (McKie, 2014). However, the constructors and other people involved in the project were required to work within the set amount as it was agreed that the City of Edinburgh Council would be expected to provide any additional amount.

Lessons Learned from Similar Projects and their Links to the Tram Project

Although the Edinburgh Tram System project was completed, the authorities cannot give any excuse as to why it took longer time than earlier anticipated or the high costs used as such networks run perfectly in German cities. It is worth noting that in Germany, a new line that links Freiburg-im-Breisgau to Vauban was completed with much fuss. As much as it will take time for people to discuss the reasons that made the tram system project go wrong in Edinburgh, there are very valuable lessons that people learn. One of the lessons learnt is that the success of the tram network depends on the system working as a whole (McKie 2014). It is also important that cities, which intend to use trams, be serious about increasing the number of foot journeys and reducing car traffic. However, the main lesson that individuals and counties learn from the project is that it is not a good value for money when large sums of money are spent in constructing only one route if it is not in a position to get more people to use foot transport and use other transport means.

Cities wanting to start such a project should first visit those countries where the tram system has being successfully incorporated into their transport systems. For instance, Freiburg, Bremen, Vienna and Zurich are among the cities that have successful operational tram systems. Jeff Kenworthy, an Australian transport expert offers very useful information of cities across the globe with successful transport systems (Karou & Hull 2014). Another lesson learnt is that the planning system needs to consider the infrastructures used for public structures. Had the planning system taken into account the factor of the public infrastructure means in U.K, it would be correct to assume that the cities would be less congested, have better quality air and better travel opportunities for the low-income earners.

From the Edinburgh Tram System project, it is obvious that those involved in the project failed to grasp basic integration and network planning principles (Edinburgh Plans New Light-Rail System 2008). It is logical to reason out that pedestrian routes, buses and cycle paths need a clear network objective. It makes sense that Edinburgh’s tram project was intended to make people use alternative transport means rather than using their cars at all times. If Edinburgh adopted some ideas of the Kassel’s success story with the tram system, maybe its systems too would have been successful. The system adopted at Edinburgh did not allow people to carry with them bikes on the train and thus it failed in trying to ensure that people have alternatives in the transport means.


There is a lot of information that a person can learn from the Edinburgh situation. However, it is clear that the reasons why project did not become successful are quite clear and thus it is helpful for other cities that would like the occurrence to happen to them. It is important that cities have a transport system that allows the residents to have alternative methods of transport as this helps reduce the number of traffic congestion in the city (Whitelegg 2014). One main reason that contributed to the failure of the Edinburgh project was due to its constant postponement. There were conflicts coming from every party involved in the project.


I concur with Jeff Kenworthy’s notion on the importance of gathering as much information as possible about cities that have successful working systems. If it is possible, it would be best if a delegation of people is sent to these countries in order to have a clearer view of the system. In Edinburgh project’s case, it is evident that the whole system failure was responsible for the additional costs that arose. Some of the costs were incurred in the many court battles that the stakeholders became involved in. People need to be on the same page when it comes to matters of policies. It is through a collective people’s effort that a project of such magnitude becomes successful.

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