German firm backs down on legal action against former Edinburgh Tram Chairman

by Adam Smyth

New developments have come to light today regarding the ongoing dispute between German construction firm Bilfinger Berger and Transport Initiative Edinburgh(TIE).


Edinburgh's expensive tramline project continues amidst a dispute between Bilfinger Berger and Transport Initiative Edinburgh credit:

The argument surrounds changes to the design of the 11.5 mile tram line being built from Newhaven to Edinburgh city Airport and who will be paying for them. Estimates for the project’s cost range from 545 to 600 million pounds. The German firm has now agreed to cancel legal action they said they would take last Friday against former Edinburgh Trams chairman David Mackay after he called Bilfinger Berger a ‘delinquent contractor’ and dismissed the entire project as ‘hell on wheels’ last week.  Yesterday a prelimary hearing in the case was to be at the court of session in Edinburgh. Behind the scenes discussions took place between the two parties and their lawyers instead, and the court was informed the hearing would not go ahead.

Earlier today Berlinger Berger issued a statement that said it was ‘concerned that Mr Mackay’s statements implied criminal behaviour on their part. Mr Mackay has today assured Bilfinger Berger that he had no intention of implying criminal behaviour’. Berger added ‘The terms of our contract means that we are not usually allowed to talk to the media but Mr Mackay’s remarks crossed the line and we were forced to react’.

The construction company is referring to David Mackay’s communication with the Scotsman which published his words which revealed he thought Bilfinger Berger was a ‘contractor who scented a victim, who probably greatly underbid and would use the contract to make life extremely difficult for the city. And they have done exactly that’.

The firm made no mention of it’s criminality concerns when announcing the action last week, instead referring to Mackay’s ‘unfounded and unjustified comments’.

Local Lothians SNP MSP Shirley Anne Somerville said ‘it really is time for TIE and Bilfinger to get a grip. They should have been getting round a table for negotiations, not fighting it out in a court room’.

Following Mackay’s unexpected leaving of his job last week, Berfinger Berger said ‘ we see the change of management on the client side as an opportunity to finally move forward with this project in an orderly manner’.

Mackay is not the only person to have quit the project. Scottish civil engineer and Berger employee Kenneth Reid, 45, from Hamilton, quit his £840,000 a year job while he was working on the Edinburgh Tramline. His bosses were quick to point out however that it had nothing to do with the dispute.

Bilfinger Berger is Germany’s second largest construction firm and have been involved in other high profile fallouts on other projects around the world. In Canada they were fired from a contract to dig two tunnels for a water filtration scheme in Vancouver after demandins extra cash to finish the job. Last year they fell out with authorities in Qatar in a row over £175 million pounds of debt on a road project.


The construction firm labelled 'delinquent' by former Edinburgh Tram chairman David Mackay. Credit: