The boss of Edinburgh Trams is leaving his post after two-and-a-half years, the Evening News can reveal.
Tom Norris, who has guided the tram service through its launch and first year of operation, will step down as director and general manager to take up a senior operations role at ScotRail operator Abellio.
Recruitment is already under way to replace the £80,000-a-year tram boss, who will leave by the end of June.
Mr Norris said he would look back fondly at his time in the job.
He said: “It’s been an absolute privilege for me to lead the Edinburgh Trams team for the last two-and-a-half years.
“Thanks to our brilliant staff, passengers and supporters for making it such a positive experience.
“I’m looking forward to the next step in my career at Abellio Group and will always look back at my time with Edinburgh Trams very fondly.”
The move will be seen as a blow for the city’s tram service, with Mr Norris regarded as an energetic and capable executive who has helped improve the image of the tram following its troubled construction.
Mr Norris’ appointment is also a coup for Abellio, the firm owned by the Dutch national railways, which itself has had a difficult start as the new ScotRail franchise holder.
The firm’s chief executive, Jeff Hoogesteger, was sacked last week after he was linked with “irregularities” in a contract won by the firm in the Netherlands. The chief executive of parent company NS, Timo Huges, was also dismissed, with the RMT union calling for an inquiry into the awarding of the £2.5 billion ScotRail contract to the Dutch firm.
Abellio was also criticised after it asked staff to cut logos for previous operator First out of their uniforms because the new staff kit was not ready for launch.
Just two weeks ago, Mr Norris told the Evening News ahead of the first anniversary of the tram carrying paying passengers that he had felt the anxiety of a “football manager on cup final day” when the service launched, but said the line had proved its value after posting better than expected passenger and revenue figures.
Despite initial reliability issues, with repeated collisions in the West End and power outages caused by everything from balloons to fires, trams carried 4.92 million people in their first year
Mr Norris was appointed as testing of tram vehicles on the line was getting under way, and attracted comment for securing the senior post aged just 26.
He had previously run rail services at the London Olympic Park and the Brighton to London main line, after joining the Network Rail graduate programme.
City transport convener Lesley Hinds, who also chairs umbrella group Transport for Edinburgh, said the search for a new tram boss had begun.
She said: “I wish Tom all the best in his new role and I’d like to thank him for his contribution to Edinburgh Trams over the past two-and-a-half years.”
The major achievements
1. Happy customers: He put a great emphasis on customer care from the word go, something reflected in its high passenger approval ratings.
2. Changed perceptions: His confident, open approach to selling the trams was crucial in changing many people’s opinions.
3. Good relations: Perhaps the only executive to maintain good relations with all sides amid recent turmoil at Transport for Edinburgh.
4. Efficiency: Push for punctuality has paid divid-ends in first-year results.