21,000 people pack Edinburgh trams on first day

The Edinburgh Tram pulls into the stop at York Place. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
The Edinburgh Tram pulls into the stop at York Place. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

A TOTAL of 21,000 people rode Edinburgh’s trams on their launch day on Saturday, exceeding expectations, transport officials announced yesterday.

A spokesman for city council-controlled body Transport for Edinburgh (TfE), which also runs Lothian Buses, said: “We are extremely pleased by the response.”

Trams on the 8.5-mile line between Edinburgh Airport and York Place in the city centre appeared to have run largely smoothly since their 5am start, with only “minor” problems.

These included minor signalling faults, ticket machines not working at some tram stops and two trams being taken out of service because of glitches with their CCTV and electrical systems. They were replaced with trams put on standby at Haymarket.

Edinburgh Trams director and general manager Tom Norris said: “It was never going to be completely plain sailing and we took measures early on in the day to keep things moving as smoothly as possible.

“We recognise that some passengers had longer waits than will normally be the case but this was mainly because of the huge popularity of the new service and because we’re bedding things in.

“There was a point [on Saturday] when demand for tickets reached extremely high levels and this meant we could not sell tickets fast enough. A teething issue with two ticket machines compounded things.”

The signalling problems are believed to relate to the system having difficulties when trams are “bunched up”.

TfE chief executive Ian Craig told The Scotsman there had been similar teething problems during tram testing.

He said managing the “headway”, or distance between trams, would be “critical” in ensuring the service ran smoothly.

TfE said 25 extra ticketing services assistants had sold tickets at stops where the machines had broken down on Saturday, including York Place and Haymarket.

The problem is believed to have been related to the machines filling up with money.

Another tram had a problem with its door-release mechanism, delaying passengers from alighting at the Princes Street stop near The Mound junction by several minutes. The TfE spokesman said: “The sunny day encouraged a lot more people to come out. It was great to see the enthusiasm. From 11:30am, it really started to busy up over the next three hours.

“Today [Sunday], things were a lot calmer, but we are still getting the system bedded in.”

The spokesman said an extra three trams had run on Saturday, on top of the ten of the 27-strong fleet which normally operate.

The size of the fleet reflects the original network being larger, including the line running as far as Newhaven. The trams face their first commuter challenge today, followed by coping with hordes of One Direction fans heading for the BT Murrayfield Stadium tomorrow.

Passenger Paul Tetlaw, a tram supporter, said: “There was a party mood amongst many of those travelling and the children clearly love the trams.

“Taking a picture on or beside a tram seemed to be an essential part of the trip for most passengers.”


OParty atmosphere on tram opening day