Tram bosses in dark over transport agency role

Tram project workers have been back on duty in Princes Street this week

Tram project workers have been back on duty in Princes Street this week

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Tram bosses still don’t know what role the Scottish Government’s transport agency will play in managing the project, despite work across parts of the line getting under way earlier this week.

Government ministers announced earlier this month that Transport Scotland would take “a very proactive approach” to managing the project.

But it has emerged that there has still been no decision taken on how it will fit into the structure outlined for the management of the project.

Council chiefs had initially expected that four or five Transport Scotland staff would be appointed to the board of the tram project, including director Ainslie McLaughlin.

The council will have to pay Transport Scotland for the cost of using its staff.

Concerns have been raised about that cost, as well as the cost of redundancies at tram firm TIE and the appointment of consultant Turner and Townsend.

Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, the city’s transport leader, said: “My understanding is that all of this is contained within the budget for the tram project that was agreed at £776 million.

“With Transport Scotland’s role, there is still some detail to be worked out on how many of them will be working and what their role will be. Since there are still decisions about how many staff will be participating in the management of the project and what their role will be, we don’t have a cost.”

He added: “The details of restructuring and project management are still being worked through so the costs have still to be finalised, but I expect that project management costs will be less than those for TIE.”

TIE cost around £1.5m a year to run, while redundancy costs for half of its 60 staff totalled £1.3m.

It is not yet known how many of the remaining 30 staff will be made redundant, although it is understood some will leave immediately while others will be transferred to the council and some will be given temporary contracts.

Contractors resumed work on the city’s tram project on various parts of the line earlier this week, with much of the work focused on sections between Haymarket and Saughton.

It is still not known when key work will take place at Shandwick Place – although the council is said to be on the brink of agreeing on timescales with the contractors.

Cllr Lesley Hinds, transport spokeswoman for the Labour group on the council, said: “The important point is that they say they do not want costs to go up but there are these pressures.

“While many people say they don’t have confidence in TIE, a lot of people at TIE do have the expertise and knowledge, so hopefully some redundancy costs can be avoided.

“But if they have to pay Transport Scotland and the (TIE) redundancy costs, then what kind of bill are we talking about?

“I will be asking detailed questions on the budget, costs for Transport Scotland and costs for redundancies and ensuring we are taking people over when we can and not paying redundancy costs unnecessarily.”

mblackley@edinburghnews.com