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Edinburgh News 2016 to 2019

Spring 2019: Full Council decides to proceed
Spring 2018: Business case for Extension
New Council 2017: Extension talk
June 2017: Press Release
Summer 2017: New Interchange
Spring 2016: Developments

Spring 2016: Developments

There have been discussions at Council meetings about extending the tramline to its full intended design length to Newhaven, and various costs have been mentioned. Perhaps the appointment of a new General Manager from Nottingham is a good omen, as he oversaw the expansion of the network there to double its route mileage. To deal with capacity demand, it has been rumoured that the speed on the off-road sections of track may be raised from 70 to 80 kph, which would allow for an improved headway. On the public roads the appropriate speed limits would need to be observed.

It will have been noted that Edinburgh South MSP Jim Eadie had led a debate, with generally cross-party support, and encouraged by both the LRTA and CRAG to develop the South Suburban line for tram-train use. Derek MacKay, Minister for Transport and the Islands, has undertaken to support funding for a study to consider such a project. Of course, many tram-train systems are operational in Europe already, and shortly one is to be tested between Sheffield and Rotherham.

Meanwhile, Network Rail are pressing ahead with building the Edinburgh Gateway interchange between the tram and the heavy rail line to the Forth Bridge, to give a link to Fife, Perth and the North-East.

Edinburgh Gateway tramstop and railway station under construction by Network Rail.

Summer 2017: New Interchange

At the turn of the year the new Edinburgh Gateway interchange station was completed, giving passengers facilities to interchange with mainline trains to Fife and the North at a point closer than Haymarket. It is also closer to the airport, and with tram frequencies so much higher than mainline train frequencies, provides far greater airport access than an EARL project would have done. The greater frequencies generally are now felt throughout the day, and a particular seasonal bonus was the provision of free trams in and out of the city centre (with short workings to/from Shandwick Place) during the Hogmanay period well beyond the normal "closing times".

The completed Edinburgh Gateway tramstop and integrated mainline station.
Note the tracks to the depot under the link to the mainline station.

Inside the Edinburgh Gateway tramstop, showing that it is probably the only tramstop built with
Edinburgh weather in mind. It is also used as a crew change base rather than the special
short platform stop beside the depot.

The tracks to the depot behind the tramstop part of the integrated building.
In the far background the concrete path between the tramstop and depot for crews for changes.

June 2017 Press Release

Below is part of the text of a press release following a survey in the autumn of 2016 by Passenger Focus.


16th June 2017

TramForward congratulates Transport for Edinburgh and Edinburgh Trams on the recent survey of high customer satisfaction from Passenger Focus with more than 99 per cent of passengers reporting their enjoyment and comfort in travelling by tram.

Tram Forward notes that the satisfaction score is the highest recorded by the passenger watchdog Transport Focus since it launched surveys of Britain's tram networks in 2013.

It will come as a major boost to the city council, which endured years of criticism for its handling of the £776 million scheme, which opened three years late and hugely over budget. The poll result, carried out last autumn, is two points higher than in 2015. Among the other five tram systems, Nottingham came closest at 97 per cent, with the average 93 per cent. Satisfaction with punctuality in Edinburgh was up one point at 94 per cent, with journey time up three points at 92 per cent and value for money up one point at 83 per cent.

Andrew Braddock Chairman of the Light Rail Transit Association said: "Edinburgh Trams have achieved the best ever result for any network surveyed in the survey, with a near perfect score. This is brilliant news and a fantastic testament to the efforts of Edinburgh Trams managing director Lea Harrison and his staff. It is timely recognition for all that they do and demonstrates their ongoing commitment to continuous improvement."

The success of the surveys results shows the in terms of meeting growing transport needs in Edinburgh, it makes an overwhelming case for extending the system.

Speaking from Westminster Mr James Harkins Secretariat of The All Party Parliamentary Light Rail Group said," To come out as the top operator and to have a near perfect satisfaction rating is superb. We hope that Transport for Edinburgh and the newly formed City Council will now move forward to extend the tram line to Leith"

New Council 2017: Extension talk

After a prolonged period without a council due to the council elections being followed by a snap Westminster election, it was pleasing to hear that the leader of the new SNP-Labour coalition council, Adam McVey, has shown enthusiasm for completing the tramline to its original destination at Newhaven. The extension from Picardy Place onwards will run through one of the lowest car ownership areas of the city, so should benefit many people. The decision will be subject to a sound business case being made for the project. Council meetings taking place on the 4th and 21st September should clarify the arguments and decisions (although Edinburgh timescales have always proved to be notoriously elastic, with more "refer-back" recommendations than the most indecisive kirk sessions - it's democracy).

However, there is no doubt that the trams are continuing to prove increasingly popular. But with many visitors recognising the Ingliston P&R facility, parking there is sometimes becoming as problematic as in the centre of Edinburgh during Festival times. With the favourable report from Passenger Focus, and the sound financial performance, the case for extension must surely be strong. Some vehicles have started to sport overall advert vinyls which does not improve their appearance. But all have now been given a few small round pink "stickers" saying "No 1 in UK" to reflect the accolade from Passenger Focus.

The No1 in UK sticker on every tram.

Business Case for Extension - 2018

In November 2017 the CEC approved the outline business case, with invitations to tender for the work to be done issued. The desicion to proceed with the line extension should be taken at the end of 2018, and the service should then begin in 2022. Bringing the line to the north of the city will extend it into the area of lowest car ownership, so should be of great benefit to the population. It will also encourage redevelopment and investment in the area. The Hardie enquiry is now finished, with some tidying up to be done before the report can be issued. It is claimed that lessons have been learnt and the extension works will be better controlled. Meanwhile the ridership of the trams continues to increase, by, it is claimed, 19% per annum.

It was pleasing to note that during the early 2018 adverse weather, known as the Beast from the East, while motorists heeded government warnings not to travel, and the buses also took advice not to risk dangerous road conditions, the only means of public transport available continuously were the trams, able to run not only virtually their normal headway, but also providing free transport throughout the night. Surely this was a sign that an extension would be a good investment?

The Full Council decides to proceed - 2019

At the meeting of the full Council on the 14th March it was decided to proceed with the extension of the tramline down Leith Walk to Newhaven. Preliminary work has now started, as described on the Edinburgh Trams website.

Following Prof. Begg's recent paper on Connectivity for Glasgow, there was a draft publication of suggestions for improving Edinburgh's transportation and clair quality problems. This draft contained rumours of completion of the original tramline northern loop, from Newhaven to Roseburn via Granton. There was also a suggestion of a loop around a pedestrianised city centre. A very continental outlook for the future, perhaps. To top that, line three was mentioned, running from Waverley via Edinburgh University to the RIE and Bioquarter - maybe Shawfair Park and Ride?

Visitors to this site may be interested in the Trams for Bath project's website. Bath is another old city badly needing a solution to congestion, and looking round to learn from others' growing pains.

Edinburgh News 2016: top