Page last updated at 18:45 GMT, Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Auditor asked to review tram row

Workers take a break from track laying in Princes Street
Work on the new tracks was halted by the row over extra money

The auditor general has been urged to look into the row that has delayed work on Edinburgh's new tram network.

SNP MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville and Tory MSP David McLetchie want Robert Black to investigate the tram dispute.

The city's main thoroughfare, Princes Street, has been closed to traffic since Saturday despite the suspension of work to lay new tracks.

The SNP MSP wants Audit Scotland to assess whether the tram project should be allowed to continue.

The organisation overseeing the project, Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (Tie), said the contractors' demands could add 50m -80m to the cost of the project.

Talks continued in Edinburgh on Tuesday to try to resolve the dispute.

Ms Somerville said: "I am today writing to Audit Scotland asking them to re-examine the tram project. No-one in Edinburgh believes it is either on time or on budget and all those opposition parties that voted for this project must be sorely regretting their decision.

"If this project will not be completed for 500m let's find out how much it will cost and put a stop to these escalating bills one way or the other.

"If the final cost is escalating there will be many people looking for an early end to the pain and disruption caused across the city."

Mr McLetchie, who represents Edinburgh Pentlands, said the impasse had wider implications for other public works projects in Scotland.

"What is of particular concern here is not only the prospect of an increase in the project cost, but that the contractors have apparently refused to proceed with the contract while these issues are resolved," he wrote to the auditor general.

"This does not seem to be a sensible way to conduct business ... It cannot be right that contractors can simply down tools while such claims are resolved."

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