Tram casualties: Where are they now?

The trams have been controversial from the beginning. Picture: Scott Taylor
The trams have been controversial from the beginning. Picture: Scott Taylor
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FORMER council leader Jenny Dawe said today she had no regrets about any of the decisions her administration took over the trams, and she insisted: “I would do the same again.”

Ms Dawe, who led the Lib Dem-SNP coalition in charge of the Capital from 2007 until 2012, spoke to the Evening News as we examined the long list of senior figures involved in the tram project who became casualties along the way.

From top bosses at ill-fated tram firm TIE to high-profile politicians, the troubled project claimed more than 20 scalps over the years.

The majority will be nowhere to be seen as the trams begin taking paying passengers from Saturday.

But Ms Dawe is certain she and her administration did the right thing and has no regrets about the decisions taken.

The party’s near wipeout at the City Chambers in 2012 was widely seen as the voters’ verdict on its handling of the tram scheme.

But Ms Dawe said she believed it was down more to the Lib Dems’ unpopularity following the Westminster coalition deal with the Conservatives.

“We took a bold decision to go ahead with a truncated plan and we had quite a few setbacks, with some people arguing it should finish at Haymarket, but we stuck to our guns and I think we have been proved right.

“We would all have liked not to have had the economic downturn or the problems with contractors, but I don’t have any regrets about any of the decisions we took to go ahead with what we decided. I would do the same again.”

She confessed to missing life at the heart of the city’s administration.

“I miss the 24/7 adrenaline pumping,” she said. “I would be lying if I said I didn’t wish I was still part of it.”

Ms Dawe and fellow Lib Dem former transport convener Gordon Mackenzie became the latest names on the tram project victim list when they lost their seats.

One of the first to go – before the scheme had even been officially approved – was Ian Kendall, who had his appointment terminated in May 2006.

He had been recruited three years earlier as procurement manager and then promoted to the £250,000-a-year post of project director. Before that, he had overseen the introduction of trams in Croydon, but he left the Edinburgh post amid concerns about delays and missed deadlines.

Andie Harper, a former director of the London Underground, was brought in to replace Mr Kendall. His appointment was described as a “major coup”. But he quit after just six months, just weeks before a business case for the project had to be presented to councillors. Mr Harper had been commuting from his home in England and decided he was spending too much time away from his partner.

In the meantime, the project had suffered another blow when it was announced that Michael Howell was leaving his post as chief executive of TIE – the firm set up by the council to deliver the trams project – in September 2006 to take up a new job in London.

He had been with the project for four years, but there were said to be differences with Willie Gallagher, who had just been appointed as chairman of TIE.

Around this time, Neil Renilson, the man who had been in charge of Lothian Buses since 1998, was freed of his day-to-day duties at the bus company so he could concentrate on integrating trams and buses in the city as part of his other role as chief executive of Transport Edinburgh Limited (TEL).

But he decided to take early retirement at 52 at the end of 2008. He said he was stepping down to allow his successor time to prepare for the introduction of trams to the Capital, but sources attributed his departure to frustration with the council’s record in dealing with Lothian Buses, which had seen passenger numbers drop as a result of the tram works.

Political oversight of the project had switched in August 2006 from Andrew Burns, who was transport convener for five years, to fellow Labour councillor Ricky Henderson, and then again in May 2007, when control of the council went to the Lib Dem-SNP coalition.

In November 2008, Willie Gallagher resigned as chief executive of TIE, citing personal reasons, just as the first tram tracks were due to be laid. He had been under pressure over the mishandling of roadworks which left the city centre in gridlock.

It took five months to find a replacement. Former Edinburgh Airport boss Richard Jeffrey was appointed in April 2009 amid warnings from critics that bringing the scheme in on time and budget would be “Mission Impossible”.

Political responsibility changed again in May 2009, when Phil Wheeler was replaced as transport convener by fellow Lib Dem Gordon Mackenzie.

Later that year, Mr Jeffrey admitted the tram project had lost the support of the Edinburgh public, saying “the project is about huge amounts of political infighting and huge amounts of disruption – what’s there to like about that?”

The departure of senior figures, however, continued in 2010, with Graeme Bissett, a former finance director, quitting his advisory role in August; the following month, Stewart McGarrity, the man who had drawn up the business case for the trams, announced he was leaving his post as TIE’s finance and performance director after more than five years in the job.

Then came the dramatic resignation of TIE chairman David Mackay, who branded the trams scheme “hell on wheels”. He spoke out, claiming a Scottish-based firm may have made a better job of the project than German contractor Bilfinger Berger.

While council chiefs insisted his departure did not reflect deeper problems, in December another three quit – construction manager Bob Bell, risk manager Mark Hammill and TIE construction director Graeme Barclay. They were followed in January 2011 by HR director Claire Malecki, with sources claiming morale inside the project had sunk to an all-time low. In May, it was announced Mr Jeffrey was stepping down amid speculation about tensions with new chairman Vic Emery, who explained the chief executive’s absence from a press briefing by saying: “He is back in the office doing work for me.”

Project director Steven Bell and PR chief Mandy Haeburn-Little left the project soon afterwards. TIE itself was finally wound up in October 2012.

FARE INCREASES TO NET SERVICE EXTRA £500,000

TRAM chiefs are expected to rake in an extra £500,000 as a result of the recent 50p airport fare increase.

Fares were raised earlier this month before the first fee-paying passenger has even set foot on board.

The new fare list revealed a return journey to the airport will cost £8 – 50p higher than the figure published last September and £1 more expensive than the current price of the Airlink bus service.

Tram bosses explained away the recent 50p price rise as the previously published prices were “draft only” and that the finalised fare structure has been set against revenue requirements in line with the business plan.

No set fare review structure has yet been laid out, with passenger numbers dictating the need for any subsequent future increases.

Asked whether tram chiefs would carry out an annual fare review much like Lothian Buses, an Edinburgh Trams spokeswoman said: “There are no current plans to amend the fare structure.”

The recent price increase is the latest controversy for the scheme which has run three years over its original completion date and cost £776 million – up from the previous estimate of £545m.

Further details have also been released of ticketing and wi-fi access on the trams. Passengers will be able to scan a pre-paid card – dubbed Citysmart – for single journeys within the city fare zone.

Similar to London’s Oystercard travel system, journeys can be “stockpiled” on the card and used when required without the need for a ticket machine.

But despite reports in January of free wi-fi across the fleet, only three trams are likely to be internet-equipped by the time the trams start taking passengers.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

Ian Kendall, project director

Got off: May 2006. Last heard of: chief exec, construction firm in United Arab Emirates.

Michael Howell, chief exec

Got off: Sept 2006. Last heard of: chairman of trustees, City & Guilds of London.

Ricky Henderson transport convener

Got off: May 2007. Now: health and housing convener.

Willie Gallagher, chief exec

Got off: Nov 2008. Last heard of: consultant to energy supplier, Northern Ireland.

Matthew Crosse, project director

Got off: 2009. Last heard of: project director, Intercity East Coast.

Stewart McGarrity, finance director

Got off: Sept 2010. Last heard of: finance director, petroleum exploration company.

Claire Malecki, HR director

Got off: Jan 2011.

Steven Bell, project director

Got off: July 2011.

Gordon Mackenzie, transport convener

Got off: May 2012.

Now: senior social worker.

Andrew Burns, transport leader

Got off: Aug 2006.

Now: council leader.

Andie Harper, project director

Got off: Nov 2006. Last heard of: quit after nine months in charge of £4.5 billion upgrade of London Underground lines.

Neil Renilson, chief exec Transport for Edinburgh Ltd

Got off: Oct 2008.

Last heard of: retired.

Phil Wheeler, transport convener

Got off: May 2009.

Last heard of: retired.

Graeme Bissett, adviser

Got off: Aug 2010. Last heard of: chairman of packaging and container companies.

David Mackay, chairman

Got off: Nov 2010.

Richard Jeffrey, chief exec

Got off: June 2011. Last heard of: running his own tyre and exhaust company.

Mandy Haeburn-Little, PR chief

Got off: July 2011. Now: director, Scottish Business Resilience Centre.

Jenny Dawe, council leader

Got off: May 2012. Now: active in voluntary groups