Print Сite this

Edinburgh Trams: A Case Study of a Complex Project


The report intends to study and analyze how the project was implemented and lay bare any difficulties faced during its implementation. The City of Edinburgh Council faced traffic problems due to overcrowded cars on the Streets. With the Scottish parliament’s approval, it embarks on a mammoth Tram network project to improve transportation within the city. However, Scottish politics hijack the process with vested interests, which caused a major delay to commence. Major political parties engage in a fight over the project to test their political muscles at the expense of the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC). Nevertheless, the city administration engages contractors on the ground to deliver the required Trams network. Through its arm, TIE, it implements the project into two sections for effective management (Lowe 2010). The first one being the On­road section starting at Newhaven in Northern Edinburgh via Ocean terminal, Constitution Street, and Leith road, straight to Andrews square, including Shandwick and Princes Street as well. The off-road section starts at Haymarket straight to Edinburgh Park, connecting Gyle Shopping Centre and beneath the A8, and then crossing the airport.

We will write a
custom essay
specifically for you

for only $16.05 $11/page
308 certified writers online
Learn More

The sections later pose problems in the project implementation in Edinburgh City. On­road faced few problems except the need for diversions of essential services from the Trams line to give way for construction works. At some point, maintenance holes were required to be built in pursuit of diversion. The major problem, however, is the displacement of residential places and businesses. In general terms, the Off-road sections face technical issues while the On-road section has political and logistical issues that hinder its progress. Through the above, CEC and BSS, the main contractor, enter into disputes that delay the project commencement that makes the project manager (TIE) contemplate canceling the contract.

Project Background Information

Trams project is scaled as a massive undertaking because of the nature of its complexity. The CEC has been faced with many traffic problems since the 1980s after losing most of its suburban railway lines in the 1960s. The remaining North Barwick and reinstated Bathgate road networks are overwhelmed by the traffic. The CEC, with the backing of political parties in Scotland, agrees to commission the Trams project to help ease traffic congestion being experienced. The Project Manager (TIE) breaks the project into two sections for ease of management and implementation.

On-road and Off-road Sections

The On-road section starts at Newhaven in Northern Edinburgh via Ocean terminal, Constitution Street, and Leith Walk straight to Andrews square. It also proceeds along Princes Street and Shanwick place to the Haymarket. Secondly, the Off-road extends from Haymarket, then follows the mainline to Edinburgh pack and then to Gyle Shopping Centre, then beneath the A8 and crossing past the airport.

The project implementation came with unexpected challenges that needed to be solved. The On-road section posed technical issues with the need for diversions of services on the Trams line that commanded building maintenance holes where diversion is not possible. However, the main problem was how to manage traffic without causing disturbances to residents and businesses in the city. As good as the project may look, considerable damages and disruptions are bound to affect so many people during implementation. This is because some roads may be rendered unused or used below their capacity leading to business losses and increased traffic on the roads.

The Off-road section is less problematic, it needs construction of the bridges, retaining walls, viaducts, and tunnels over grounds with poor conditions. To construct the mainline and two bridges simultaneously over Glasgow-Edinburgh mainline needs a network rail. This may not be an easy task as work may only be allowed at specific hours. It may force certain works to be done overnight during weekends only. Though this will allow other businesses to continue smoothly, the project implementation period may be prolonged. Finally, the section will be faced mostly with technical issues that deter the smooth flow of the works.

Breaking the Trams network into two sections gave the CEC humble time to manage and facilitate the project implementation well. Again, this strategy allowed the main contractor (BBS) to engage other specialized firms to enable parallel execution of works in favor of the project. TIE is also in a better position to monitor and evaluate the two sections independently compared to if it was one massive undertaking.

Get your
100% original paper
on any topic

done in as little as
3 hours
Learn More

Parliament and Politics

Scottish politics has played a very key role in the Trams network project from the onset. The city of Edinburgh in agreement with the Labour, Conservatives, and Liberal Democrats parties, set the project modalities and subsequent approval. This is seen through the Scottish parliament anonymously approving a bill to allow the project commencement. It grants CEC power to continue executing the Trams project by mandating its arm, the Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (TIE), as the Project Manager. Trams receives support from all corners of Edinburgh, including the controversial Scottish National Party (SNP), through its spokesperson Kenny MacAskill between 2000 to 2002. Due to this great support, the Scottish administration approves funding for Tramsline in 2002 (Scotland 2011). The political parties of the day, CEC, the Scottish parliament, and other players, arrive at a mutual agreement and certify the project as viable to help solve traffic problems in the city.

The political parties’ support and subsequent parliamentary approval to the Trams network was a significant step to allow the CEC and BBS to sign the contract for project commencement. As seen in the study, controversial SNP brokered a deal for political parties to approve the project to enable Edinburgh City to commission the works. Kenny MacAskill, a 2007 parliamentary aspirant through SNP, brings a turnaround in the project, causing a delay in its starting because the Edinburgh East constituency had not been included. The delay, however, becomes instrumental in assembling all stakeholders to review the earlier parliamentary approval. The line that linked the city Centre and Leith Waterfront then extends to the airport, and a branch to Newbridge Industrial Area was included in the plan.

Politicking in developmental projects brings devastating issues during and after implementation. Trams is a megaproject meant to help Edinburgh city, but politics has caused unnecessary delay. The Scottish parliament approved funding in 2002, but as of the 2007 elections, the project was still stalling. It is after the elections that it received fresh health after the minority SNP administration at Holyrood commissioned an audit report Scotland (2007). The First Minister, Alex Salmond, contemplated closing down the project because it had become a bone of contention among the parties. However, opposition parties resolved to back up the project again which later SNP agreed on funding of £500 million to the project. The CEC also agreed to contribute £40 million in support of Trams. Finally, politics interfered with project implementation, court cases among stakeholders have also delayed the commissioning.

Service Diversions and Relocation

Trams is a mammoth project to affect the entire Edinburgh City. The Project Manager, all contractors, and other stakeholders agreed mutually on modalities of commencement. Service diversions and relocations became items of discussion to allow fairness during project works. It was agreed that all services on the Trams line be diverted for the contractors to execute their works smoothly. Where it sounded impossible for diversions, building maintenance holes became a solution to avoid disrupting services and businesses. This is one of the reasons CEC divided the project into two distinct sections, The On-road and Off-road, to facilitate systematic implementation. For example, the Trams Depot site at Gogar fell on the airport runway that prompted construction below ground level (Boateng et al., 2017). A major Water Main crossed an area not included in the drawing designs, causing a delay of a full year to divert the service.

The Trams network was a good development to Edinburgh; however, interruption to other services and businesses is evident. To save the Edinburgh economy, diversions and relocations were necessary to allow the smooth flow of business and essential services during project execution. Closing roads leading to residential places will mean all workers will remain in-house, not working, and businesses will also suffer many losses. Diversions and relocations were the only solutions before the project commencement.

On the other hand, diversion and relocations cannot be received well by the affected parties. Essential services may be moved away from the consumers that will require considerable time to access them. Businesses, too may suffer losses because relocation disorients the customers, forcing them to buy from similar businesses around them. Supposedly, some business entities may be forced to close shop unless the Edinburgh administration finds a way to cushion them from unwarranted losses caused by the Trams network.

Fund Approval and Contracting

The Parliament and Scottish administration funding approval allowed Edinburgh to contract BBS to implement Trams according to specifications and plan. The traffic problems were increasing day by day as cars continued to stream the streets. The railway that used to supplement road transport was destroyed in the 1960s. The CEC engages BBS as the main contractor to deliver the Trams network. For effective implementation, TIE designs four different contracts to use in managing the undertaking (Ney et al., 2011). These are “System Design Services (SDS), the Multi Utilities Diversion Framework Agreement (MUDFA), the Tram Infrastructure and Maintenance Contract (INFRACO), and finally Vehicle Supply and Maintenance Contract (TRAMCO).”

We will write a custom
for you!
Get your first paper with
15% OFF
Learn More

Alfred McAlpine (AMIS) won the MUDFA contract in October 2006. Due to technicalities, AMIS gave way for Carillion, and other diversion works were to be carried out by Farran and Clancy Docwra as a relief to Carillion. BBS, Bilfinger­Berger Consortium was awarded INFRACO to deliver Civil Engineering works while Siemens carry out an electrical part in May 2008. TRAMCO was contracted to CAF, a Spanish firm, in November 2007. Later SDS and TRAMCO contracts were incorporated in INFRACO Consortium to avoid design and conflict claims between Trams specifications and infrastructure. However, the MUDFA contract was isolated to remove delays that were calling for an extension of the implementation period, which could cause loss and expenditure on infrastructure contracts. It was agreed that MUDFA was to complete major diversions of services on Trams line before INFRACO though there was a provision to allow BBS to work alongside the MUDFA contract.

The contract arrangement gave priority to the MUDFA contract to work on major diversions before INFRACO takes over to prevent interference, disruptions, and any damages as may deem inappropriate. This was right to Give MUDFA humble time to complete diversion works and leave the rest to the main contractor. The arrangement sort to avoid conflicts of interest between the contractors. The reason for isolating MUDFA was technical issues over which contractors were using to demand a project extension period. Ideally, it was agreed mutually to allow MUDFA to complete its works to pave the way for other players to continue. Yes, the arrangement was the best for the Trams project to run systematically in the economical way possible.

Though the arrangement seemed fit, according to the Project Manager, not all contractors were comfortable with it. BBS as the main contractor, was ready to work alongside the MUDFA contract to complete the assignment in the stipulated implementation period. BBS later disputed and was allowed to work besides MUDFA in some sections of the project. This saw an estimated expenditure of £512 Million shooting to £545 Million. The records confirm £10 Million increase was caused by inflation.

Project Delays

The Tram network project caused several issues among its stakeholders. Its complexity posed challenges in implementing that forced parties to disagree, causing unwarranted delays. The City of Edinburgh, political parties, and Scottish Executive agreed to support Trams mutually, but other players showed unwillingness that caused delays. Trams network needed a parliament bill which the Labour and Liberal Democrats coalition, including the opposition, passed anonymously. Later in 2002, the Scottish administration approved funding but the project stalled until after the 2007 parliamentary general elections, where it received fresh life. However, this delay may be viewed positively because Edinburgh East Constitution had not been included in the original planning of the project on political grounds (Flyvbjerg al at. 2018). Kenny MacAskill standing in the Constituency challenged the arrangement in the 2007 elections. After the elections, the parliament approved the inclusion of the Constituency into the Project Plan.

After final preparations for project commencement, the Scottish Executive votes funding to Trams. However, before fully approved by the government, the 2007 parliamentary general elections interfere with the process. It is after the elections that Trams receives another life to proceed. Another delay is instituted by the minority SNP administration at Holyrood by commissioning an audit report Scotland (2007). Alex Salmond, First Minister, thought to drop Tramline as it had become a playing ground for politicians to test their political muscles. However, opposition parties, including Margo MacDonald, the former SNP member, agreed to back Trams for a fresh start. After a considerable delay, SNP permitted £500 Million funding to Tramsline or advocate the sacking of the Miniter if parliament’s will is frustrated.

In the above examples, delays are depicted to prevent Trams from taking the course as per the initial plan. The delays have brought substantial review and life to the project. Edinburgh East Constituency had been left out in the Trams’ initial planning for political reasons. Kenny Maskill takes advantage of the delay through parliament to petition for the inclusion of the Constituency in the Trams coverage plan, which was later granted. The delays have also been instrumental in empowering the parliament and other stakeholders to task the Project Manager to include all parts of the city in the project.

Some parties, out of their unwillingness to support Trams, have frustrated TIE’s efforts causing unnecessary delays. Political parties take advantage of the delays for a playing ground to test their muscles at the expense of the City of Edinburgh. The Scottish government has lost millions of pounds in reviewing the contracts due to inflation and changes in commodity prices. The project approved funding of £500 Million shot up by £45Million, an extra burden to the Scottish government. Finally, disputes erupted between the Project Manager and contractors because of these delays.


The project has been the source of battles among its stakeholders because of vested interests. Tramline was a good development project to uplift the City of Edinburgh’s economy, but the delays have facilitated siphoning government resources inappropriately. No statistical records show the percentage covered in the works as the project remains unfinished. The main contractor has on several occasions disputed for some conditions to be met before proceeding, causing unnecessary delays. BBS is still calling for another extension from 2012 to 2014, TIE in response, has placed a £ 1 Million fine each month if it does not complete its work as per the earlier agreement of 2012. If the contract becomes unviable, legal redress is necessary or otherwise terminate the contract to pave the way for another contractor.

Need a
100% original paper
written from scratch

by professional
specifically for you?
308 certified writers online
Learn More


Boateng, P., Chen, Z., & Ogunlana, S. O. (2017). The Edinburgh Tram Network (ETN) Project. Megaproject Risk Analysis and Simulation.

Flyvbjerg, B., & Budzier, A. (2018). Report for the Edinburgh Tram Inquiry. Available at SSRN 3147659.

Lowe, J. G. (2010). Edinburgh trams: a case study of a complex project. In Proc., 26th Association of Researchers in Construction Management,(ARCOM) Conf., ARCOM, Leeds, UK (pp. 1289-1298).

Ney, S. M., Murphy, P. W., Brinckerhoff, P., & Sydney, A. T. (2011, March). Traffic and Trams–The Edinburgh Experience. In Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) Transportation Conference, 2011, Auckland, New Zealand.

Scotland, A. (2011). Edinburgh Trams: interim report. Edinburgh: Audit Scotland.

Cite this paper

Select style


StudyCorgi. (2022, June 7). Edinburgh Trams: A Case Study of a Complex Project. Retrieved from


StudyCorgi. (2022, June 7). Edinburgh Trams: A Case Study of a Complex Project.

Work Cited

"Edinburgh Trams: A Case Study of a Complex Project." StudyCorgi, 7 June 2022,

* Hyperlink the URL after pasting it to your document

1. StudyCorgi. "Edinburgh Trams: A Case Study of a Complex Project." June 7, 2022.


StudyCorgi. "Edinburgh Trams: A Case Study of a Complex Project." June 7, 2022.


StudyCorgi. 2022. "Edinburgh Trams: A Case Study of a Complex Project." June 7, 2022.


StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Edinburgh Trams: A Case Study of a Complex Project'. 7 June.

This paper was written and submitted to our database by a student to assist your with your own studies. You are free to use it to write your own assignment, however you must reference it properly.

If you are the original creator of this paper and no longer wish to have it published on StudyCorgi, request the removal.