Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Slow train to ??

Borders Railway pretty prominent in the news this morning ...

... sadly, the story has all the hallmarks of yet another capital infrastructure project becoming somewhat unstuck :-(

I'm really left wondering just what piece of infrastructure (of any description?) the current Scottish Government or local Edinburgh Council will have actually initiated and thereafter delivered within their 4-5 year term?

Locally - can any one add to the Skateboard Park (which is great, by the way!) or Colinton Toilets?

I can't think of anything else they've actually initiated and seen to completion??


Edward Harkins said...

Am I correct in understanding that there was a large Council type committee involved in the trams project from the outset?

I thought we had learned the lesson some years ago that the public sector in the UK is incapable of leading effectively on the design and delivery of large infrastructure works?

I know of no other advanced economy (including even the ex-communist European ones)where the public sector attempts this - especially with involvement in detailed decision-making by elected officials.

No disrespect, Andrew, on that last point, nor is it a general criticism of the public sector. My point is about the appropropriateness and capacity for any individual to do the job in hand. I, for example, sit on the board of The Citizens/TAG theatre in Glasgow; but as a board member I'm not going to try to micro-manage the artistic production process undertaken by our professional staff.

Surely the key task of the public sector, especially at city/city-region level, is to lay out the overall ambitions (or 'mission' in the jargon), then agree a broad strategy, then appoint the very best professionals on merit and then... stand back!... Stand back and let the professionals deliver according to the original mission and strategy.

The public sector can then focus on its best-fitted task of oversight and protecting the public interest and purse. I would surmise that if this had been the approach with the trams, the Council would have been far more focused and ready to pro-actively intervene as soon as incipient problems appeared.

Andrew said...


Thanks for the lengthy comment.

Not aware of any large Council-type Committee? ... the project has generally been managed via a relatively small arms-length Board; that said the overall Council has retained ultimate responsibility.

I'll not claim that everyhting would have been absolutely perfect with this project if Labour had retained power in May 2007 - it wouldn't - but please have a look at this Audit Scotland report from June 2007, specifically para.14 at the top of page 4. Quite clearly the project was in reasonable shape when we lost power:


More generally Edward - this is the biggest infrastructure project in the East of Scotland and we have a national Government who don't support it and half of a local Administration who don't support it ... they may not have wanted it to progress, but their complete lack of any subsequent backing has, in my view, significantly damaged the tram programme and indeed Edinburgh itself.

They should have had the maturity to get behind it once it was decided to press ahead, instead they've caused untold damage --- it's been a failure of governance.


Andrew said...

oops --- shorter link: