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Edinburgh News 2013 and 2014

Spring 2014: Training and familiarisation
20 December 2013: Rebranding for integrated transport
6 December 2013: Back after 57 years
8 October 2013: New test phase on schedule
17 September 2013: Council anouncement we want to hear
13 September 2013: Summer progess
6 July 2013: Background preparations
5 May 2013: Return to normality
26 March 2013: The last gap in the line for test runs
13 March 2013: First section of line handed over to the Council
18 February 2013: Coming of Trams Influencing Commercial Decisions

Spring 2014: Training and familiarisation

All vehicles have now received the traditional Edinburgh "Madder and White" livery and the new Transport for Edinburgh logo. Training and familiarisation runs are being undertaken round the clock. Traffic light interaction is being fine-tuned in the light of experience gained through the test-runs. Trams are indeed becoming a familiar sight in Princes Street, although their quietness is still catching people out.

At the "Princes Street" tramstop at the bottom of the Mound.

On Princes Street, below the Castle.

Heading East, in some sunshine to show the colours.

The first practical steps have been taken to set up integrated transport under the brand Transport for Edinburgh. A new logo has been designed, with a platinum background for Edinburgh Trams and gold for Lothian Buses. At a recent presentation to the LRTA Cllr Hinds indicated that integrating trams and buses was the first stage, but the whole movement around the city concept would be considered. This will ultimately also lead to improving motorist, cycling and pedestrian facilities throughout the city. On 18th December the Council released a press release on the subject.

6 December 2013: Back after 57 years

The picture left shows the first tram through Princes Street turning off at Waverley into South St Andrew Street at four minutes past midnight on 5th December (railway hotel clocks are set a considerate five minutes fast). The tram had been walked from Haymarket tramstop and Shandwick Place by engineers and wellwishers. Extensive data recording was being done onboard. Clearances were being checked prior to the build-up early in the new year of "ghost running" until the start of services, officially, in May. Earlier in the week test-runs at walking speed and then normal running speed had been undertaken along the off-road section between Edinburgh Park and Haymarket Yards, mainly during the day, but also at night-time to be able to measure electromagnetic influence between the 25 Kv Network Rail line and the 750 V tramline.

Now that the trams are to start running through Princes Street, the generally still hostile citizens will probably get frustrated at the doors remaining closed and become eager to try the trams. Credit is due to the transport committee led by Cllr Hinds and councillors of all five political parties who have co-operated on this project, and to Chief Executive Sue Bruce in reorganising the entire construction project and modus operandii of the participants to save it in September 2011, albeit with a shorter route.

With the imminent announcement of the formation of Transport for Edinburgh whereby tram and bus operations will be integrated with a single fare structure, the city will be assured of modern and responsive transport facilities. Most citizens will be relieved that the corporate colour scheme will revert to the traditional "madder" and white, and the meningitis type of livery will be discarded.

All night-time photographs by Kirsty Livingstone of Oldmeldrum.

Daytime check runs were undertaken from Gogar to Haymarket Yards along the off-road
section of the route from Monday 2nd December.

Arriving at Haymarket Yards from the Gogar Depot, ready for the test run to the terminus.

Waiting at Haymarket Station tramstop many citizens are provided with their first
close-up view of one of the Basque trams in its running state, and will note its silent operation.

Ready to move off from Haymarket to Shandwick Place tramstop.

LRTA area officer George Murray, who trained driver Billy Adams
to drive trams at the Summerlee Museum Transport Group

At 23:43 driver Billy Adams took the tram past "Binn's corner" into Princes Street,
ahead of the planned time of midnight.
Could this be an omen?

The tram passing the iconic Edinburgh Castle.

Cllr Lesley Hinds, Chair of the Council's Transport Committee, and Sue Bruce, Chief Executive for the City of Edinburgh Council,
flanked by three development engineers at the York Place terminus.

8 October 2013: New test phase on schedule

As planned, the track from the Depot to Edinburgh Park Station was ready for tram run testing on Tuesday 8th October. Tram number 267 was "walked" from the Gogar Depot to the Edinbugh Park/Hermiston Gait tramstop. On the way, clearance measurements were taken of all poles, etc. and platform heights checked with the doors. At Edinburgh Park there are cross-over points to allow the tram to change track.

At the Edinburgh Park Station/Hermiston Gait tramstop.
Note the Council's signs round the lamppost warning people of tram testing.

The City of Edinburgh Council website carried advice notices about the need for awareness of trams at road and path crossings, emphasising particularly the quietness of the vehicles.

As poles were larger than originally planned, all clearances had to be checked.

Road traffic held while clearances were checked.
The Siemens engineer in the yellow jacket is operating the traffic light controls manually.

Approaching the Gyle tramstop.

Tram floor and platform height at each door position was checked.

The tram with "walkers" returning to the Depot under the A8, Glasgow Road.

17 September 2013: Council announcement we want to hear

On the City of Edinburgh Council website, the following announcement was posted on the 17th.

Test trams to York Place by December 2013
Published Tuesday 17 September 2013

Plans have been set out for the handover of a section of the tram route between Gogar depot and Edinburgh Park Station for testing in early October with full route testing to take place in December.

The Council's project team has forecast that the service will be up and running for passengers by May 2014, two months sooner than the original summer 2014 target. The city centre will be clear of tram civil engineering works by October with Haymarket (Dalry Road to Manor Place) now set to reopen to traffic around 12th October and Shandwick Place crescents to open around 19th October. The return of traffic to the West End and Haymarket follows the early reopening of York Place in early September, St Andrew Square in April and Princes Street at the end of 2012.

Transport Convener Lesley Hinds said:
"Within weeks the city centre will be clear of tram works for the first time in six years - the end of the tram project and the beginning of a tram service are clearly in sight. I am pleased that the end date for the project has been brought forward but I am very keen for it to be finished even earlier if possible. I have asked that all of these timeframes are reassessed at the beginning of next year so that any further gains in progress can be factored into our plans.

"Our target for launch is now May 2014 but we will bring this forward if we can and we will announce a start date for the tram service when we are 100% sure. There is a major testing, commissioning and driver training programme to be done, work to be done on tram stops and, of course, a Scottish winter to get through.

"As we near the completion of the project, we are now approaching a time of real opportunity for our city. There has been major investment in infrastructure and now we want to see transport options fully integrated as part of a system that will benefit residents and visitors while ensuring that Edinburgh is well positioned in the eyes of potential investors who can bring new jobs to our city."

Transport Minister Keith Brown said: Today's announcement further underlines this Government's commitment to modernising transport systems across Scotland. Alongside the GBP500 million the Government has committed to the trams, our massive investment programme at Haymarket, Waverley, the new Gateway station, Borders and in electrification will revolutionise the rail network and public transport in central Scotland.

"Our record of delivery and robust project management speaks for itself. The announcement that the infrastructure works will be completed and handed over to the Council by next March will ensure they are in a position to have trams running ahead of the revised July 2014 delivery date. We will continue to work with the Council and the contractor to look at opportunities to bring the programme forward even further where at all possible. "This is good news for people and business in Edinburgh and we are all looking forward to a city centre free of road works and major disruption ahead of the busy Christmas period. It puts an end to the misleading speculation over recent weeks about when the tram would be finished and provides much needed clarity to businesses to plan ahead with confidence."

The testing phase between the Gogar depot and Edinburgh Park Station and subsequent full route testing will see in excess of 150 tram test journeys per day (five day week) travel along the line. The tram route to Edinburgh park crosses South Gyle Broadway and Lochside Avenue and the Council will be working with Edinburgh Trams to ensure that businesses, residents and commuters know what to expect.

Ahead of December a city-wide safety and awareness campaign will be launched as trams will be running through the city centre. The completion of the track and road works between Haymarket and Shandwick Place will mean that that the vast majority of tram infrastructure is now in place in the city centre. However, localised planned works may occasionally impact on traffic flows until the beginning of the tram's testing and commissioning phase.

The project remains in line with the revised budget (GBP776m) approved by the Council in September 2011, with work either ahead of schedule or in line with the revised timescale reported in December 2011.

Last month the Council set out plans to create a new organisation, Transport for Edinburgh, to integrate transport services in the Capital. Transport for Edinburgh will be set up initially to integrate the tram and bus services, with Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams confirmed as the operators. The latest update was contained in a report to Council that will be considered on Thursday 26th September. A further progress report will be made to Council in January 2014 providing the completion target date for the Infraco and CAF contract and reporting on the Edinburgh Trams target for the start of revenue service.

13 September 2013: Summer progress

With the area to the immediate east of the depot now having had all its track laid, overhead cabling is taking place towards the city centre from there, and has reached Edinburgh Park station.

New copper wire shines in the sun against dark clouds.

Test and training runs are planned soon to extend to the trailing points just to the left from the site of the above photograph, where the trams will reverse the run back to the airport. This section of the training run will incorporate crossing roads through Edinburgh business park, including the busy South Gyle Broadway. It will be interesting to note the public's reactions to the tram controlled traffic lights controlling the dual carriageway crossing.

In the city centre York Place has now been reopened for traffic, leaving just the West End to be returned to use. Hopefully after three attempts the concrete mix and strength for the roadway will be acceptable. Only underground cabling needs completed now. Both the Council and the Transport Minister have welcomed the return of normality to most of Edinburgh's streets, and there is still some hope that the trams will start to run before the summer of 2014, although Christmas 2013 will not now be possible. The official line, however, is still summer 2014.

In a first for a tram system in the United Kingdoms, it was decided that bicycles can be carried on trams outwith the peak hours.

At the full CEC (City of Edinburgh Council) meeting on 22nd August the Operational Agreement was approved. It established Transport for Edinburgh (formerly referred to as TopCo) at the top of a tree over BusCo and TramCo. The OA had been developed as a result of remarkable co-operation under the guidance of Sue Bruce (CEO) and Lesley Hinds (Transport Committee convenor) of all five political parties, Lothian Buses, Edinburgh Trams, Edinburgh Airport and council officers. The only item debated was the decision to retain at four the number of recommended elected members (two from the ruling Labour-SNP coalition) and two from the Conservative, Scottish Green, and LibDem opposition). Details to be established are integrated ticketing of bus and tram, and variations to bus routes, as the two modes are be complementary and not in competition. However, the standard flat fare (currently still only £1.50) will only apply as far west as the Gogar Depot, leaving Ingliston Park and Ride as a more expensive ride from anywhere in the city. It remains to be seen whether the bus fares will be altered as a consequence. Rural West Edinburgh areas will be particularly unfairly disadvantaged when their only recently provided bus service will be terminated at the Gyle, leaving them with no public transport. No doubt solutions will be found, and hopefully bus routes adjusted to optimise public transport facilities.

Because of the government's refusal to extend the national free concessionary fare scheme to all urban transport, and restrict it to just bus passengers, CEC have decided to create a scheme whereby Edinburgh residents will be able to use their concessionary cards on the integrated tram system funded from the council budget.

6 July 2013: Background preparations

Although traffic has returned to St Andrew Square, work still needs done to prepare the stops, such as completing communications equipment and providing shelters from Edinburgh's sunshine for waiting passengers.

Information equipment and shelter work being done.

All stops are currently having this work done. Meanwhile, Overhead cables now run from the temporary terminus at York Place to beyond Haymarket. This was the scene in York Place on 2nd July, but the assurance was given that all would be clear by the 17th.

Road and at far end tramstop finishing work in York Place.

There are conflicting reports as regards the commercial viability of the tram operation, with some claiming the system will run at a loss for fifteen years, but it is known that profitability and financial discussions are ongoing. Hopefully full details will be made public at the August full Council meeting. Of course there is also a view that public infrastructure should exist to serve the public and the profit motive should not be of greatest importance.
Discussions are also ongoing about operational aspects and integrated ticketing with Lothian Buses who are to operate the trams on behalf of City of Edinburgh Council under an umbrella organisation probably to be named Transport for Edinburgh. Transport partnerships between buses, trams and the airport are also to be established. It would appear strange that bus route 100 (Airlink) is to continue in parallel to the tramline, but perhaps reasoning for this will come to light some time. Unfortunately some of the road surface at Haymarket and the West End was found to be sub-standard and is having to be redone at the contractor's expense, but the project will nevertheless remain ahead of the revised schedule.

5 May 2013: Return to normality

It is probably premature to suggest a return to normality, but fencing is coming down at various places, and traffic flow around St Andrew Square is back to normal, although North St Andrew Street is still a construction site, and South St Andrew Street seems traffic restricted to allow for double tram tracks turning into Princes Street. At the West End, too, road layouts are appearing to return to normal around "Binn's corner" and the Haymarket junction. Rail grinding is to start along Princes Street in the very near future.

Masts were being positioned in North St Andrew Street and York Place.

Meanwhile testing and driver training was proceeding with normally three trams running between the airport terminus and the Gogar Depot. While the Scottish Government felt unable to extend the free bus travel for the "over-60s" to the trams, the City of Edinburgh Council has decided that it will devise a scheme to enable this, as integrated ticketing is its ultimate aim, and the trams will be run by a joint board of Lothian Buses (Tramco and Busco will both report to Topco). It was reported in The Scotsman newspaper that a ride was organised for a group originally opposed to the tram project, and their reaction was not only acceptance of the project, but comments that the tram was so much smoother and more comfortable than a bus.

City of Edinburgh Council's tram offices have been providing photograph galleries on the council website. Many photos are from within hard hat areas, or from helicopters - a resource beyond my budget - so progress is best followed by accessing that at the beginning of each month.

One of the training/testing trams seen approaching Ingliston P&R.

26 March 2013: The last gap in the line for test runs

Test runs and driver training is taking place along the 2.8 km of track now owned by the City of Edinburgh, and the Gogarburn tramstop for the Royal Bank HQ seems to be no longer fenced off. However, the gap between the landward track and the track from the Gyle into the city is shown in the photograph below. The area had an unusually high water table, and proved to be a challenge to "tame". Network Rail is to develop the Edinburgh International station (at top right) on the line to Fife at this point, and advantage is being taken of that development to complete this area. Near top left is the bridge for the road to the depot and the new station, and bottom left will lead under the A8 and Gogar roundabout to the Gyle. Masts have already been erected through the Gyle and Edinburgh park areas, as is shown in the Edinburgh Council's tram galleries (see links on previous page), so completion of the line through the building site shown below is eagerly awaited.

Building site between Gogar Depot and bridge under A8/Gogar Roundabout at Edinburgh International.

13 March 2013: First section of line handed over to the Council

A dreich Friday, 8th March was a significant date for the Edinburgh tram project. After intensive and successful testing the first 2.8 km section of the line, from the airport, via Ingliston P&R and Gogar tramstops to the Gogar Depot was transferred from the contractors to the City of Edinburgh Council. CEC Transport Convener Cllr Hinds and Transport Minister Brown MSP were on the inaugural run, together with a press pack. Engineering work is continuing along the remainder of the route. But the "live" section cannot be connected to the rest of the line until retaining walls have been completed and track laid at the site of the Edinburgh International station tramstop between the depot and the Gyle.
Although construction is up to the revised schedule, if not well ahead in some places, it is not the intention to start public services until the summer of 2014.

Trams at Ingliston Park & Ride stop, published online by CEC.

18 February 2013: Coming of Trams Influencing Commercial Decisions

Closure of UK-wide chains Jessops and Habitat have left vacant retail premises at Shandwick Place. Sainsbury has taken one of these to open an outlet "because of the expected footfall from the Coates Crescent tramstop". From further afield, the campaign to bring back a rail link to the town of St Andrews. STARlink highlights that it is the only university town in Scotland which does not have a train station. The town's international golf interests can be given a fast connection with Edinburgh Airport through the planned Edinburgh International tramstop with its station on the railway line to Fife. These views are of course more in line with the effect of the coming of trams at other locations around the world than we have come to hear around Edinburgh in recent years.

Edinburgh News 2013: top