Trams boss quits his post

THE BOSS of Edinburgh's tram project has quit his post, it can be revealed today.

Willie Gallagher, who joined the board of tram firm TIE in February 2006, is leaving for family reasons. City councillors will be informed of the decision today, though it is not currently known who his replacement will be.

Mr Gallagher was appointed executive chairman of TIE in June 2006 and brought extensive engineering and transport experience to the post. His departure comes at a crucial time for the massive project as the first tracks are set to be laid.

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In a statement, TIE said Mr Gallagher would leave tie at the end of this month for "personal and family reasons".

Mr Gallagher said: "I am very proud to have created a very strong team of engineering and construction professionals. They are more than equipped to deliver world-class trams for the people of Edinburgh and I look forward to seeing them run in 2011."

Council leader Jenny Dawe said Mr Gallagher had been crucial in bringing the tram project to life.

She said: "He always impressed those he met with his skills and enthusiasm, and I am very disappointed to lose him at this point.

However, I fully understand his reasons for leaving, given his personal circumstances, and support his decision.

"I am confident that we have a solid team going forward to deliver a world-class transport network for the city, many of whom have worked on other tram schemes and major construction projects."

Tom Aitchison, the council's chief executive, added: "Edinburgh's trams would not have come this far without the skills and energy of Willie, and I thank him for his leadership and drive."

The tram line has faced criticism for the disruption it has brought to businesses and motorists in the city.

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Last month, deputy council leader Steve Cardownie called for Mr Gallagher's resignation following a disastrous start to works on Princes Street.

Graham Birse, deputy chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce said he was sorry to hear of Mr Gallagher's departure. He said: "Although the project has had its problems, Willie was a guy who had a track record in project management and a great deal of respect in the transport sector and the support of his staff. As for the project, the show must go on."

He said when the start of tram works at Princes Street and The Mound caused chaos last month some politicians had formed "a hanging jury". "We felt that was not what we needed. What we needed then and what we need now is for all the partners in this project to get together and deliver it." He added: "We need to replace Willie with a suitable successor as soon as possible and go forward."

Mr Gallagher had previously held senior roles with Scottish Power Group, the Strategic Rail Authority, Scottish Legal Aid Board, Lothian Buses and Transport Edinburgh Limited (TEL).

Last year, the Evening News revealed that Mr Gallagher's basic salary had almost doubled in a year to 170,000. He was also set to earn up to 340,000 in bonuses by 2011 if the project was completed on time.