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A friend recently reminded me of this satirical site on Myki and some projects with one of the worse cost escalation. A prime example is Edinburgh Trams which is a 14km tramway in Edinburgh that runs between York Place in New Town and Edinburgh Airport, with 15 stops. Construction began in 2008, but it wasn’t opened until this year in May.

More spectacular is the project cost escalation. Initially, it was budgeted at £375 million, but after interest payments are factored in, it costs roughly £1 billion or 267% of the original estimate. This translates to £71.4 million per km or £714 per cm.

Here comes a nonsensical comparison part. A 16gb iPhone 6 will cost you £539. It is roughly 6.9mm thick, 67mm wide and 138.1mm tall. Here is a crazy idea. Instead of spending £1 billion on a tram project, one can buy 1.86 million iPhones and line them up like dominos with backs touching from York Place. The line will be 12.8 km long, 1.2 km shy of the airport. Alternatively, one can create 4 tracks of iPhones (like the actual tram tracks, two in each direction) The line will be 64.05 km long.

So, what is the point of all this? It is just an idea to illustrate an inappropriate comparison, and perhaps the way scientists’ minds work. We conjure many crazy ideas in the hope that some may turn out to be great ones. An example in my head is that of Einstein. Who would imagine riding on a light beam? But Einstein did, and that was where he drew this amazing insight about general relativity.

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