Utrecht counts costs of major planning failings

How could the authorities get it so wrong? The National Audit office has slammed Utrecht over the planned university tram connection to the city.

Utrecht auditors have criticised both the province and the city council for major failings in the building of a tram link between the city centre and the university campus.

In particular, the budget was knowingly set too low and important information about the project seems to have been kept secret, say the auditors in a new report.

The Uithoflijn was supposed to link Utrecht’s main railway station with the Uithof university campus but the project has still not been completed. The cost for the eight kilometre route is now put at €500m, making it the most expensive tram track in the country, the NRC reports.

AlfvanBeem [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons

The auditors say that city and provincial officials knew the cost would be millions of euros higher than the budget but kept it deliberately low so as to be ‘politically acceptable’. They also criticise the poor working relationship between the city, the province and the contractor BAM, saying that the project had been continually changed and adapted and that crucial information was kept from city and provincial councillors. The project has apparently already cost one provincial administrator their job, the NRC said.

How can this mess be allowed to happen? Oversight from the NRC comes too later to halt major failings and there is the possibility that the project will not be completed as costs escalate. Who will make the final decision? It seems incredible that a link with the University campus which is such a great idea in theory has been beset by such problems and at such a late stage in the procedure. Someone needs to stick their hand up and take responsibility!

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Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins is Welsh and lives in England. He is a writer. A Europhile and Remainer, he is a regular visitor to Utrecht and has set his crime novel series in the city.

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