Edinburgh Trams Opens

Finally! 57 and a half years since Edinburgh Corporation Tramways closed their last route and eight years since the long and drawn out construction period begun the new Edinburgh Trams network has welcomed its first fare paying passengers. At 0500 on Saturday 31st May a packed tram departed Gyle Centre for York Place in Edinburgh City Centre starting a new chapter in tramway history in Scotland as the country can once again say that they have an operating street tramway and the Summerlee Heritage Tramway is no longer the only tramway in Scotland.

The tram chosen to operate that very first service was 275 which up until a few days previous to the opening had been carrying the #readytoroll vinyls on the windows. Departing Gogar Depot shortly before 0500, driven by Craig Scotland, the tram gently made its way to the Gyle Centre stop where it was met to by large crowds of people wanting to say “I was on the first Edinburgh tram”. With tickets purchased from the machines – with the first 10,000 across the network being special edition Platinum versions – the eager passengers soon boarded the tram and 275 set off with the first revenue earning tram service in Edinburgh since 16th November 1956.

The day did not go completely smoothly (but then how many first days of new tramway systems go completely according to plan? Who can forget the first day on the upgraded Blackpool Tramway!) but nonetheless 21,000 passengers were recorded as travelling on the trams during the day. There were a minor problems with the CCTV and internal electrical systems on a couple of the trams during the day which caused them to be removed from service and returned to depot but the third track at Haymarket had been used to stable spare trams for eventualities such as this to try and minimise disruption for passengers.

There were also a few minor signalling problems (according to a spokesman from Transport for Edinburgh the system can’t cope when trams bunch together) and some ticket machines had teething problems (apparently this was partly due to them filling up with money) but 25 extra staff were put out onto the system to sell tickets.

It seemed that even the weather was interested in making things run smoothly on the day as it was sunny and warm throughout and this certainly encouraged the crowds to try out the trams with good loads seen for most of the day with even that very first service seeing standing room only. The peak period for carrying passengers was said to be in a three hour period after 1130 obviously after people had got out of bed and seen it was a nice day and what better could they do then go for a ride on a tram!

In addition to 275 running the first service the following trams were also seen carrying passengers: 255, 259, 260, 261, 263, 266, 267, 271, 273, 274 (not a complete list). It has now been confirmed that just 10 trams will be needed on a daily basis to provide the 8-10 minute frequency but on the first day 13 trams were used as at one stage three extras were required to help move passengers promptly. It is hoped that as the system beds in passengers will have shorter waits at stops than they did on the first day.

The second day of operation – Sunday 1st June – was said to be a quieter day but the trams were still popular as more people tried them for the first time. The next week will see two major tests for the line, firstly on Monday it will be the first commuter day and it will be interesting to see how many commuters move to use the trams and how easy it copes with this. Then on Tuesday 3rd June, One Direction are in concert at Murrayfield Stadium and so the trams are likely to be inundated by teenage girls heading to listen to the “music” of their heroes.

We will be adding a Photo Gallery from the first few days of Edinburgh Trams shortly (it will definitely be uploaded during a month with a u in it!) and if you have any photos you would like to share with us please email us at the usual address and they can be included with these. Thanks to those who have already contributed.

273 is seen having departed the Airport, the control tower of which can be seen in the background, with a service bound for York Place. (Photo: Jane Buck)

Two trams are seen at the York Place terminus on the first day.

Not everyone seemed to be interested in the historic event happening in front of them it seemed...

Scenes such as this was not uncommon on the first day and hopefully will be a regular sight: crowded platforms. This one is a Murrayfield Stadium. (Photos x3: Fred Collins)

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16 Responses to Edinburgh Trams Opens

  1. Bill says:

    It was a great day

  2. 21,000 passengers on first day is brilliant. I’m not so sure about your projection re commuters using the tram. It’s up to Edinburg Trams to advertise the advantages of Ingliston Park & Ride for business users although they will then be competing with Lothian Buses; otherwise the tram route isn’t especially attractive or useful for commuters.

  3. Alasdair Taylor says:

    The pic of the 2 trams is not York Place but is actually Shandwick Place (the stop is known by Edinburgh Trams as “West End – Princes St”), looking west towards Haymarket.

    • David Taylor says:

      Alasdair is correct as the terminus at York Place is single track although a set off points outside the station indicate that another platform may be added and the curve at the outer end show that it is possible for the line to be continued.

      Also the lack of a station at Waverley Railway station mean a long walk through the crowds from Princes Street or a steep up hill walk through the crowds from St Andrew Square.

  4. David Taylor says:

    I travelled to the airport and back and enjoyed the experience. There were however problems. I tried to purchase a ticket at Haymarket station but the four machines would not accept coins. the staff on duty tried their best as several people tried and failed. I then noticed a very small logo showing that the machines would accept credit/Debit cards that the staff did not seen to know about and then they told the others. I eventually got a ticket at 08.49 and did the airport run. As the trams were only lightly filled at that time of the morning I would be surprised if the machines were full of coins. Another problem I noticed was the card validation machines that people were tying to use. As it was a very sunny day you could not see the green tick and red cross properly. Pensioners were then being told off because they had not validated their card. Also at the terminus’s they did not know that they had to alight to revalidate the card. On my second trip to the airport a lady was left on the platform as she had been told to get off to validate hers and her husbands passes. This caused some humour and concern when the Guardess ran through the tram to tell the driver who could not do anything because we had left the station.

    On the second trip back to Edinburgh we came to a halt for about 10 mins and while the driver tried twice to tell us what was happening the P.A. packed up. The problem was not just us as a tram coming out of the city stopped beside us and also waited.

    By 11.30 the town was filling up and the families were travelling on the trams that nobody wanted or so I was told by several sceptics the night before. I left and caught my train home.

    Points out of 10 is a 9 for effort and when they get the ticket machines sorted it may be a ten in Sept when I go back for the LRTL conference.

    • Ken Walker says:

      Telling people off for not validating cards etc on the first day is over the top: surely the staff should be there to help people to get used to a new system, not to tell them off? And as a pensioner myself I know that it can sometimes take a while for older people to get used to new-tangled gadgets and systems!

      • Ian Buck says:

        There were many staff around, as one would expect, answering questions and helping with the ticketing. Only witnessed a couple of people making “ticketing mistakes”. The staff were very friendly in their advice of where they had gone wrong and what to do next time. If that was Croydon they would be calling for back up from the Met Police SWAT team, only joking but I have seen some aggressive revenue protection going on in some countries.

        Ian Buck

      • David Taylor says:

        Further to my comments above and Kens reply, perhaps telling people off was a bit harsh of me as I found nothing but helpful smiling staff. The comment was directed to the pensioners who were told to alight and re-validate their passes especially when the tram was about to leave. This resulted in the problem I mentioned earlier. One of the problems is the directions at the stops which tells passengers not to validate their passes until about to board. Then a large group gather to access the machines which are not quick and with the sunshine bouncing off the screen you cannot see the directions so you could enter the tram without the card being scanned. also if you do it at the terminus 5 mins before the tram arrives and then sit on the tram for 10 mins waiting for the tram to leave. you have wasted 15 min’s. The staff were not too sure of the time limit as a few stated the card was active for 15 Min’s while others thought it was 30 min’s.

        All things considered it was a good day helped by the happy helpful staff but management need to get the ticket systems sorted or made clearer.

  5. Paul says:

    Seen midland metro will be bring these Ubro3’s in service within the next month or so. At least with the PA part midland metro have conductors selling tickets on trams so if the PA systems on tram packs in they can be condacted via 3way radio and inform passenagers of any delays

  6. Ian Buck says:

    Had a great day on Saturday in Edinburgh. Managed to see, but could not get in, the first tram at Haymarket. First impressions are very good. Heard very few negative comments from local people and for something that was supposed to be hated by all wasn’t the impression I got with the conversations I had. My wife, a tram supporter rather than enthusiast who has travelled on many systems in Europe summed it up. “if you didn’t know the controversy that had gone on before you would think that Edinburgh has now one of the best trams in Europe”. My only concerns are that it is restrictive in what it serves but we all know the story behind that. You need exact change for the ticket but you can use cards and most of the local people were using their smart cards. The trams do not appear to have air con but who was to predict that the weather this past weekend was to be more like Spain!

    Having had first hand experience of other CAF products nice to see that the trams are up to their usual high standards and lets not forget that these days it is the operator / owner who sets the specification. Nice touch were the luggage racks which I saw being used by people coming from Waverley station as well in the other direction from the Airport. The stops seem well designed and the quality of street furniture does not seem too obtrusive in the city centre.

    I wish Edinburgh well with their new venture and hope that the recriminations of what went before can be put aside over time and the system developed into something that serves more of the city.

    Ian Buck

  7. Great day and great weather. i started at York Place at 0830 am and found the assistants on hand, very helpful with mastering the ticket machines. Chose to alight at Gyle Centre and took bus to Airport. Particularly noteworthy was the Edinburgh Trams female assistant on duty there, who even though she admitted to having been up since 4am that morning, was one of the “stars”of the day. There seemed to be confusion with card or cash payments at ticket machines. It was also unfortunate that the launch coincided with the Gardening Scotland event at nearby Ingliston which caused minor traffic problems.

  8. Franklyn says:

    The fares are way too high for this system ever to be successful. Also the idea of automatic ticket machines and validators is quite likely to fall apart quite quickly.

    All of this was tried in Sheffield when that system opened. After the first few days, once the novelty factor had worn off, trams were running almost empty. A single fare was £1 and there were no returns, which was extortionate compared to the fares on the many competing buses.

    To make sure people were buying tickets as they should, travelling ticket inspectors were on nearly every tram, while the local low-life found ever more ingenious ways of stealing whole ticket machines which they knew were full of pound coins!

    It took ages for anyone to have the simple idea of slinging a ticket machine arpound the inspector’s necks and calling them conductors! But when they did finally see sense revenue dramatically increased.

    I’m no fan of Stagecoach, but it was the best thing that ever happened to supertram when they took over. Fares were kept down and as a consequence the trams now run full.

    The problem in Edinburgh is the trams are way too big. Each car would need two conductors to effectively monitor that number of doors. A poor revenue protection officer getting on at one end would have no chance as the fare evaders jump off at the other end. The would have done far better to have smaller vehicles that could be coupled together at peak times (a la Manchester).

    • Colin Smith says:

      But Manchester has always used ticket machines and has recently installed validators. True, the low life have recently started attacking the ticket machines but I could also see these thugs attacking a conductor as well. In Manchester, I suppose it can be argued, the elder residents are somewhat fortunate as their over sixties bus passes will be used to trial the valudation systems.

  9. Paul Dredge says:

    Appears the truth about the delays may finally come out http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-27717735
    & re Ian Buck’s comment – on what basis is this one of the best tram lines in Europe, somehow better than Amsterdam or Manchester’s -don’t think so

    • Ian Buck says:

      If you read carefully that was the opinion of my wife who has ridden extensively the trams of Amsterdam (until the Netherlands introduced their foreigner unfriendly ticket system) and has had the pleasure of being dragged around Manchester by me. If you noticed the comment said “one of the best” not “the best”, that does not imply that it is better than Amsterdam or Manchester although if I had to choose personally the CAF trams of Edinburgh are far better than the M5000 in Manchester.

  10. tram man says:

    How Much!!! £770 million .If that’s what its going to cost for future extensions in Edinburgh then give Scotland independence.Ian I agree with you on the unfriendly ticket system in Amsterdam.All that messing about having to validate your ticket when boarding and departing the vehicle.

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