Tram bosses press ahead with PR firm

The delivery of the first tram was a rare piece of good news

The delivery of the first tram was a rare piece of good news

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Tram bosses have hired one of Scotland’s biggest communications firms to take on the project’s public relations battle.

The Big Partnership is being employed to help sell the troubled scheme following the disbandment of the city council’s arms-length transport firm TIE.

The move follows the Scottish Government’s intervention in the tram project last September and the appointment of key staff from government agency Transport Scotland to take charge of the scheme.

Transport Scotland already has a contract with the Glasgow-based PR company to help promote some of its major projects, including the new Forth crossing.

Council chiefs agreed to use that deal to bring in the Big Partnership to provide back-up for the in-house team, which had shrunk dramatically after the demise of TIE.

TIE’s former head of communications, Mandy Haeburn-Little, who was said to have been paid between £120,000 and £139,000 a year, stepped down last June after two years in the post, before landing a new job in October as director of the Scottish Business Crime Centre.

One source said: “With the disbandment of TIE, almost all the communications staff have left. It was agreed to use the Big Partnership through the existing Transport Scotland arrangement, but paid for from the trams budget.”

Most of their work so far has been on providing information to stakeholders, keeping businesses and residents along the route up to date with developments.

It is understood staff from the PR firm have been working on the project since the end of November and the position will be reviewed before the end of February. The work is said to have involved the equivalent of two-and-a-half full-time staff working on the project. The cost for the three months, to be paid by the city council, is estimated at £30,000.

Lucy Adamson, former head of communications at Transport Scotland, is also working on the project.

City council director of corporate governance, Alastair Maclean, said: “This is an extremely busy time for the tram team and we welcome the assistance that Transport Scotland and the Big Partnership are bringing to the project.”

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The Big Partnership is supporting the Edinburgh trams project on an interim basis following the change in governance arrangements last year and the disbandment of TIE.

“They have been appointed to the project to help keep local businesses and residents informed of developments and to organise events. This is the most cost-effective way of providing public information in the interim following the disbandment of TIE.”