EXPERIENCED tram bosses are to be sought to serve on a new city firm tasked with overseeing the running of Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams.
Transport chiefs are to hire a number of non-executive directors next year who have worked on other networks in the UK and abroad. Individuals would be involved in working on a plan to integrate bus and tram services ahead of testing of the full route being launched in early 2014.
The new city transport firm has been temporarily called TopCo, although it is understood that Transport Edinburgh is among the names being considered.
Details are yet to be finalised but the firm would be established in mid-2013, and be comprised of councillors, Lothian Buses directors, and Edinburgh City Council chief executive Sue Bruce.
Non-exec directors, expected to number around three, would ideally have previously worked on tram networks in Manchester, Dublin, or Croydon, or further afield. Salaries are expected to be relatively modest – around £8000-£12,000 annually to work several days per month.
Joanna Mowat, transport spokeswoman for the Edinburgh Conservatives, said: “We want really good people who can bring their experience to this project. Good governance means having relevant skills.”
A key challenge for the firm is how to integrate the trams into the city’s traffic route, with buses still providing around 90 per cent of public transport journeys. Next month Lothian Buses will sign an agreement to operate the trams when they are launched in 2014, although the firm is already responsible for the hiring of the first drivers and conducting test runs.
In autumn 2011 Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (TIE), the public firm set up to deliver the project, was axed amid widespread criticism at the lack of progress. In February of the same year Audit Scotland had warned that the council-owned body lacked the skills and experience to complete the scheme.
David Lonsdale, assistant director at the business group CBI Scotland, said bringing external expertise onto the board of the transport authority was “a wise move”
He added: “They will be looking for candidates with the right experience, ability and expertise, who are able to provide support when appropriate but also challenge when necessary.”
Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport leader, said: “When Lothian Buses becomes the tram operating company we need to make sure there is integration and by having TopCo that will ensure that happens.
“Once we’ve signed that agreement next month we’ll be looking for people with a transport expertise, specifically knowledge of tram and bus integration.
“We’ll soon be moving from construction to operation and we want people with a passion for public transport and integration.”
John Carson, a long-standing tram critic and former head of maintenance at Network Rail, was less impressed.
He said: “I should imagine Transport Edinburgh would be frowned upon by the Government – too close to their own shambles called Transport Scotland. How about BHL, Black Hole Ltd!”
COMPANIES FACE SCRUTINY
FIRMS owned by Edinburgh City Council are to be subject to greater scrutiny as part of a shake-up of the way they are run.
The local authority owns around a dozen companies, including Lothian Buses and Marketing Edinburgh, which was recently criticised over the “Incredinburgh” Winter Festivals campaign.
New scrutiny will include bosses having to report annual results and industry experts sitting on boards to provide advice.
Frank Ross, the city’s economy leader, said: “We are looking to bring in experienced non-execs to ensure we have the appropriate experience.
“Culture and leisure firms already have this but, for example, some property firms are purely councillors.”