Council backs new Transport for Edinburgh board

A new board has been appointed to run the city's trams. Picture: Dan Phillips
A new board has been appointed to run the city's trams. Picture: Dan Phillips
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THE new body which will operate Edinburgh’s trams came a step closer today as councillors approved the first appointments to the board of Transport for Edinburgh.

The directors are expected to hold their first meeting within the next few weeks.

The board will be chaired by city transport convener Lesley Hinds, one of four councillors named as directors. Four senior directors from Lothian Buses, led by chief executive Ian Craig, will also sit on the board. The council is about to advertise posts for three non-executive directors, who should be appointed by the end of the year.

Councillor Hinds will be joined by Tory transport spokeswoman Joanna Mowat, Green councillor Nigel Bagshaw – and SNP group leader Steve Cardownie, once a staunch opponent of the trams.

Today Cllr Cardownie said: “Although I was the only one who voted against the trams back in 2006, I’ve said if we’re going to have the trams we want to make sure people get something out of that huge disruption and expense.

“I’m looking forward, not backward. What has happened has happened. Now I wantto help make it the best system it possibly can be.”

Transport for Edinburgh will be an umbrella body for the city’s trams and buses, overseeing the separate Edinburgh Trams and Lothian Buses.

Once operational, Transport for Edinburgh will be the tenth-largest employer in the Capital.

Its objective will be todeliver an integrated transport service for Capital residents.

It will hold the council’s 100 per cent shareholding in Edinburgh Trams and its 91 per cent shareholding in Lothian Buses – the rest of the bus company shares being owned by Midlothian, East Lothian and West Lothian councils.

The three posts still to be filled are for non-executive directors who will sit on the board of Lothian Buses as well as Transport for Edinburgh and will be paid £8000 a year.

The councillors and Lothian Buses executive directors will receive no extra remuneration.

Cllr Hinds said the new posts would be advertised and applicants would be interviewed by a cross-party recruitment panel.

She said: “We are looking for people who have an interest in Edinburgh and a commitment to integrated transport.

“They might have a financial or business background or direct experience of running trams or buses.”

Names could be approved by the full council in December, ready for them to take up their roles in the new year.

However, Cllr Hinds said with the launch of the trams coming closer, the other eight board members were likely to meet within the next few weeks to deal with any urgent decisions. It will normally meet once a quarter.

However, she stressed that, unlike the council’s controversial now-defunct trams firm TIE, Transport for Edinburgh would not have its own staff, but would rely on existing Lothian Buses and council personnel.

She said: “We are not setting up a bureaucratic system. It will not have a separate office or anything like that.”

The remit of Transport for Edinburgh extends not only to buses and trams but also to walking and cycling.

Cllr Hinds added: “We want the new body to look after integrated transport as a whole – including walking, cycling and park and ride – co-ordinate the different means of transport and make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to get around the city. But that is further down the line. Our priority is getting the tram up and running and integrating the trams and buses.”

After the years of controversy and the delays surrounding the £776 million tram project, Cllr Hinds said the move towards creating a new transport system for the Capital was an exciting prospect. She said: “We want to learn from other cities about how they have managed that, but I hope that in five or ten years’ time we can say it is better and easier for people to travel round the city.”

What’s in a name?

TRANSPORT for Edinburgh is the latest entity in the city’s long history of buses and trams.

Lothian Buses can trace its history back to the Edinburgh Street Tramways Company of 1871, also involving at various times the tram companies of Leith, Musselburgh and Edinburgh North.

Edinburgh Corporation took over the operation of the tramways in 1919, the same year the first motorised buses appeared.

Edinburgh Corporation Transport was later transferred to a new public limited company, Lothian Regional Transport, and renamed Lothian Buses in 2000.

The company is one of only ten bus operators in the UK still in public ownership – and the only one in Scotland.