ON hindsight it was probably inevitable that the long awaited Edinburgh Trams inquiry would launch in a fanfare of expectation and then grind to a sudden, awkward halt.

Should we really have expected anything different? This, after all, was the probe that has already taken three years to get to this point, with a remit to inspect the ‘tram-aggedon’ scale shambles of a £1 billion transport project that dramatically careered off the rails. Anyone who thought it would go to plan clearly hadn’t read Edinburgh Trams: The Horror Story, Part One.

READ MORE: Edinburgh tram project impeded by a 'shroud of secrecy', says former council leader

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Several dozen mostly men in grey and navy suits had barely parked themselves on what by mid-morning would prove to be rather uncomfortable seats in a meeting room just a few hundred yards from the where the city’s trams terminate, and the wheels came off.

Former Edinburgh City Council leader Jenny Dawe was the first witness called to shed light on just why a project that started with a vision for two lines at an estimated £375 million, ended up with one shortened track costing well over twice that – when a technical glitch halted proceedings.

Not that blank screens and hurried repairs impacted quite as severely on members of the public as the years of tram torture. that ensued as major routes through the city centre were churned up – some more than once – while contactors and the council’s trams arms-length company set up to bring the trams to reality,squabbled and bickered.

Despite an issue which at one time had Edinburgh’s relatively sedate citizens so irate that some spoiled council election ballot papers with one word – ‘trams!’ – the 50 public seats set aside for the public, were mostly empty.

No action yesterday then for the several security guards manning the controlled entry doors. They had been ordered to prevent anyone entering with coffee cups or bottles of water – “just in case someone has a mad turn and decides to chuck it over someone”, explained one.

In the witness seat, Ms Dawe, meanwhile, – council leader at the height of the fiasco - was doing her own version of chucking a few water bombs around, as she told how political differences and a shroud of secrecy had blighted the project’s progress, particularly as relations between the council’s own arms-length company TIE and contractors Bilfinger, disintegrated. “We wanted to know more information… about the cost and time,” she told the hearing. “Very often we were told ‘Oh no, we can’t tell you that’. There was a huge amount of secrecy.”

READ MORE: Edinburgh tram project impeded by a 'shroud of secrecy', says former council leader

It was “frustrating” she added – a word perhaps loudly echoed by the many Edinburgh and Leith businesses that saw that struggled to survive as roads outside their doors churned up for months due to the works.

If secrecy surrounding the costs and time delays was frustrating, the complexities of who was doing what and when left even the former council leader wracking her brains to think why the project’s governance seemed so messy.

What was the Tram Project Board’s role? How did that fit with the council’s arms-length business TIE? And what about TEL (Transport for Edinburgh)? And, come to think of it, was there any conflict of interest among councillors who also happened to sit on these boards?

Ms Dawe stuttered under the questioning. “It was complex,” she admitted, pointing out that councillors must have been told why it was that way at the time, but on hindsight it could have been simpler.

Complex, frustrating, secretive and let’s not forget that astronomical price tag. A bit like the task of constructing Edinburgh’s trams, this inquiry is almost certain to delve into places some of those involved may prefer could remain buried deep underground.