The resignation of Transport Initiative Edinburgh’s (TIE) executive chairman, Willie Gallagher, has prompted rumours that mounting pressure and criticism of his handling of the city tram project has led to the transport boss calling it a day.
On 13 November, TIE announced that Mr Gallagher will be stepping down at the end of November.
Having joined in June 2006, Gallagher reorganised the company which manages the city’s tram construction, and oversaw the acquisition of contracts for the £512 million project, due to be finished in 2011.
An announcement stated that Gallagher’s surprise resignation was “due to personal and family reasons.” However, the heavily-publicised problems with the tram infrastructure, in particular delays caused in the city centre as roads were closed to accommodate road works, have led some to blame Mr Gallagher’s decision on growing pressure from the media and public over the tram network.
David Mackay, chairman of TIE, is now expected to take over Gallagher’s portfolio.
The disruption caused by the closure of the busy Haymarket junction at the beginning of October prompted an emergency meeting at the council to try to resolve some of the problems caused by the numerous diversions around the city.
A new peer group was formed, consisting of representatives from the police, Lothian buses and TIE.
The group’s aim is to implement plans to avoid similar delays, with road closures on the Mound/Princes St junction expected to continue until the end of November.
Critics have gone as far as to draw comparisons between the tram project and the building of the Scottish Parliament, which opened three years late and cost ten times the initial budget.
However, Gordon Robertson of TIE insists that there is no truth in the comparison, nor any evidence to support it, and that the Scottish Parliament was an exception to the rule.
TIE have also reaffirmed that the tram project is keeping within the £512 million budget and the building of the infrastructure is on schedule.
Jenny Dawe, Leader of City of Edinburgh Council said: “I am certain that David [Mackay] will ensure there is minimum disruption in the management of TIE as we enter a new and challenging phase of the trams project.
"Under his stewardship I am sure we will continue as planned towards our goal of a world-class public transport system for Edinburgh.”
Mr Mackay has offered his support for outgoing chief Mr Gallagher, saying: "We are very fortunate that Willie has established a high calibre team who work to stringent standards and many of whom have been engaged on other tram schemes and major construction projects."
Further support for Mr Gallagher came from a TIE spokesperson who added: “the Council would have him back in a shot."
There will be further reports to the council on interim management arrangements and the appointment of a permanent replacement for Mr Gallgher.
In the past week there has also been speculation over the project as a whole regarding whether the tramline extension from Roseburn to Granton will be built at all.
City councillor Jenny Dawe told The Evening News: "There is no point in speculating on rumour or innuendo.
"No decision regarding [project stage] 1B needs to be taken until well into 2009.
"A working group is currently exploring the capital costs and funding options for delivering line 1B.
"The tram project continues to progress as planned. Our ambition remains to have a fully integrated transport system operational in Edinburgh in 2011."