A bit of a sTRAMash...
I read with horror that Councillors in Edinburgh have agreed to look into the costs of scrapping the city’s tram project.
This has to be one of the most knee jerk and stupid ideas I have ever heard. Explore the options for sure but dear Lord don’t scrap this. Scotland will never live this down.
Whilst I am not defending in any way the handling of this project, to scrap it now would in my humble opinion (and I am sure I am not alone in the industry), be a national embarrassment. For once lets put party politics aside and do whats in the national interest?
After the Scottish Parliament and now the trams many Scots and indeed non-Scots look at these major capital projects and think; why can they never get them right?. Good question but nothing new I am afraid....
Delays and costly over runs in public or state projects is nothing new. A certain fairly famous landmark in London, lets call it the New Palace of Westminster (aka the Houses of Parliament) was constructed during the 19th Century to much Royal, public and international acclaim.
What is not widely known though is the number of disputes, the enormous cost over run and the extraordinary length of time it took. It was originally meant to take 6 years to complete, it took 30 years!! It was supposed to cost £700,000 it ended up costing at the end over £2million (roughly £500million today). There were disputes even before the design got under way, disputes between the builders and tradesmen, designers, client - a real smorgasbord of fisticuffs.
The irony being, similarly with our own Scottish Parliament, when all was said and done many (not everyone, so calm down) lauded the new “palace” as a statement of national wealth and craftsmanship.
So why can the public sector continue to get it so wrong? The answer is not for the faint hearted and to be frank is only my humble opinion. The public sector unlike the private sector has one major difference, regardless of austerity measures, taxpayers funding. Private companies don’t have this cornucopia and mores the pity, because private companies are there to drive effectiveness and efficiency in every pound they have, to ensure profits are maximised. The public sector don’t use the word “profit” because thats not their focus.
And therein lies the problem. In order for these major capital projects to be effectively delivered the public sector needs to engage properly and openly with the private sector and vice versa. Only when this happens will we see an end to such needless waste and embarrassment.
There urgently needs to be a much better relationship between state and private companies. Even more so in this time of austerity. Trust is critical to unlocking a sustainable future for Scotland’s construction industry and its high time we had some between the public and private sector. I once wrote that; “If people and organisations are the building blocks of a Project then TRUST is surely the mortar that binds them together”.
This project like any other could have been scoped much better and all stakeholders risks factored into the project schedule. That way cost and time over runs could have been better managed and mitigated. Lets face it they build trams and parliaments all over the world without the issues we seem to have, I wonder why?
I am sure some reading this will accuse me of over simplifying the situation. I disagree, lets think about it this way, the status quo doesn’t work, perhaps it is time for looking at it from a different perspective?
(For the Non-Scots readers - Stramash click for definition)