You are a go-ahead, modern European city and a haven for tourists. You want to create a world-class tram system to ferry about the new wave of tourists, particularly from China. You decide you want some transport experts at the top of their game to facilitate this exciting project. So you appoint Neil Scales as a non-executive director along with Peter Strachan – Neil’s recently departed predecessor at the job he has just been appointed to in Queensland, Australia. Oh dear, didnt quite work out as planned – the Edinburgh project has been engulfed in as many shenanigans as Scales’ Merseytram project that failed having squandered £70m from the public purse. In the summer Scales and Strachan along with other directors resigned from Edinburgh’s TIE trams scheme after costs rose from upto £200m to £776m.
When Merseytram was scrapped by the government in 2005 it had cost £28m on consultants, £15m on utilities realignment and £17m on design and other costs. The auditor concluded this was due to ‘weak management and leaderhip’.
Undeterred Merseytravel revived a new £450m scheme in 2008 only to be told the government was not going to fund it. It should also be added that an original trolley-bus scheme also failed at a public inquiry in 1999. That’s an impressive hat trick.
Some observers in Scotland say introducing trams on routes already well-served by public transport is simply a trophy or vanity project. Sound familiar?
You wonder where Neil got the time to participate in the Edinburgh scheme, having Merseytravel to run, being chairman of the UK Passenger Transport Group and president of the European Platform for Mobility Management.
Still, he’s off to sunnier climes with a huge pay packet. And his chum Mr Strachan? Now boss of major transport projects for the Olympics after overseeing fare rises averaging 15% a year while in Australia. Nice work, eh?