Page last updated at 17:51 GMT, Friday, 20 March 2009

Tram talks continue past deadline

Princes Street
Princes Street has been closed to all traffic

Both sides in the stalemate over Edinburgh's trams project have agreed to continue negotiations.

Transport Initiative Edinburgh (Tie) accused contractors of demanding millions of pounds in extra payments.

News of the dispute emerged just 24 hours before Princes Street was closed to all traffic on 21 February, to allow the first tracks to be laid.

Tie and contractor Bilfinger Berger extended talks beyond a 1730 GMT deadline to find a solution.

Independent assessors will be called if no agreement can be reached.

If there is still no resolution after 30 days, the dispute is likely to end up in the courts.

Concerns have been raised about the disruption caused by the closure of Princes Street.

One of the big problems is that it's a long time to wait for something and people get very fed-up
Tom Manning
Railway Procurement Agency Dublin

Michael Clarke, director of the National Galleries of Scotland, said it would affect the number of visitors to tourist venues.

"My main worry is that this complex gets 40,000 visitors per week during the Edinburgh festival in the summer," he told BBC Scotland.

"It'll have the effect of an arterial blockage on our visitors - fewer visitors from abroad will be able to see our fantastic collections.

"We have a world-class programme of exhibitions - beginning with Turner next week and a big Spanish show in the summer - that's going to affect our visitor figures, which affects us reputationally and financially."

Another city which has gone through the painful birth of a controversial tram project is Dublin.

Little opposition

Opened five years ago, their network is now much-lauded and the pain of its construction is now a dim and distant memory for its citizens, according to Tom Manning, from the Railway Procurement Agency in Dublin.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: "For a year and a half before the tram system opened every traffic jam, every bit of disruption was blamed on our construction, even though we weren't to blame for some of it.

"One of the big problems is that it's a long time to wait for something, you don't get the benefits for some time and people get very fed-up.

"There was a perception that this was a project that wasn't going to work."

However, he said that when the system was up and running, residents could see the advantages and his organisation had very little opposition to further track laying.



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