Tag Archives: edinburgh trams

Edinburgh Trams: Only Three Years Late

The Edinburgh Trams Project was meant to deliver three new public transport routes across the city. Instead, after a massive overspend (total cost said to be £776 Million) and years overrun, Edinburgh Council only managed to build one line that didn’t even go as far as planned: Edinburgh Airport to York Place, a route which is already very well served by multiple LRT buses and which runs in parallel to the railway line from Waverley through Haymarket almost all the way. Edinburgh Tram logo
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Filed under Corruption, Public Transport, Unanswerable Questions

Insult to Injury

Edinburgh Trams - Not travelling down Leith Walk in 2014Leith Walk and Constitution Street have indeed suffered from the trams over the past five years. We’ve lost the bronze pigeons, Sherlock Holmes, quite a few businesses have closed down…. it’s a mess. Edinburgh Council has a vision and 3.4 million, which carefully and sensibly spent might make this one of the finest streets in Edinburgh. (But who trusts the council to spend sensibly and with regard for what people want?)

Besides, there’s a million pounds worth of work to be done fixing the roads before the “vision” work can start.

I wrote in March:

Leith Walk is one of the most characterful, the richest in variety and busy with local businesses and people who live and work there. I want Edinburgh Council to treasure what the city has. I don’t believe they do.

Ray Perman wrote in May last year:

The Walk is wide enough to have a broad central reservation with shrubs and trees – like the one which runs along the broader part of East Claremont Street. But what do we have instead? The cheapest, nastiest black rubber blocks, bolted together. If they weren’t ugly enough, they are flanked by unnecessary white lines, hatched on the road. For what? To deter motorists from parking in the middle of the road?

The whole effect is ghastly, but just think what Leith Walk could become. Continue reading

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Trams? Trams? Look over there – a spaceship!

On Saturday 3rd March 2012 Edinburgh bus fares are going to go up. Again.

The bus fares change in 2012 will be the fourth rise since 2006, when a single bus fare went up to £1: In April 2008 to £1.10, then in January 2009 to £1.20, which was blamed on rising labour costs. In 2011, to £1.30, it was blamed on fuel costs: in 2012, a single fare will be £1.40 – and now it’s the withdrawal of the grant and the fall in passenger numbers due to the trams. Whatever the reason, that’s a rise of 175%40% (pre-coffee calculations) in 6 years.

Princes Street will still be covered in roadworks as they try, once more, to get the lines straight. The obstacle course that we scrambled through on Leith Walk was entirely pointless – they don’t now plan to build tramlines any further than St Andrews Square. The route will run in parallel with the trainline from Haymarket all the way to Edinburgh Airport, where it would have been entirely possible to build a halt, a connecting bridge, lifts, and a feeder road to the airport buildings with a fleet of accessible buses, in half the time and for a fraction of the cost.

On 3rd March 2007 the Scottish Government released £60M for Edinburgh Council’s big trams project. Tavish Scott, the MSP for Shetland, then the Transport Minister, said:

“Trams will give passengers a safe, environmental travel choice, a choice which will see reduced congestion and reduced emissions.

“The utilities agreement that has been put in place is the right approach. Allowing a single contractor to do all the work will minimise disruption in the Capital, save money and ensure the delivery of the project. That is welcome news for Edinburgh.”

Yes, it would have been, wouldn’t it? Continue reading


Filed under Public Transport, Scottish Politics

Tramacle: Take the Train

Edinburgh Trams Taking You To Work In 2011In this morning’s Scotland on Sunday, Kenny Farquharson, the former Political Editor and now the Deputy Editor, writes that the only thing that can save Edinburgh from the tramacle is for Alex Salmond to put the trams on the right track.

I’d been directed there from Twitter by several people I follow who thought it was a great article, but:

It’s crucial we find an efficient way of whisking visitors – be they tourists or business people – away from the airport as quickly and comfortably as possible to the bus and rail connections that can take them to wherever in Scotland they are heading

Oh Kenny, how can you have lived in Edinburgh for 23 years and never taken the train from Waverley into Fife over the Forth Rail Bridge? (Well worth doing, by the way – when I was an Edinburgh-Rosyth commuter, every weekday morning I’d look up from my reading as the sound of the rails told me we were reaching the bridge, and let the glorious burst of view over the Forth feast my eyes: and notice that all through the carriage, commuters who saw this view twice a day every working day, were looking up from their work or the coffee wide-eyed to enjoy.)

But this post is not about the Forth Rail Bridge. Simply that if you ever had, you’d have known that the “efficient way” to whisk visitors from airport to train already exists.

(Mind you, the Airlink buses are pretty efficient as airport connector buses go – airport to city centre in less than half an hour: comfortable and inexpensive.)

You see, the railway line runs right past the airfield. All we need is to build a halt (platforms either side and a connecting bridge): a feeder road from the halt to the airport itself: and a fleet of buses to take passengers from halt to airport. If we hadn’t already wasted so much money on the Edinburgh Tram Debacle (the Broughton Spurtle* suggests Tramacle as the appropriate name) we could have considered more expensive options, but the beauty of the plan to build a halt, a bridge, and a road is that it’s possible Edinburgh Airport could expand on this when it’s proved successful.

That project, which was the most obvious solution even back when Edinburgh Trams were first mooted, has become even more appealling now Waverley Station is in the process of making itself accessible for the 21st century. But Haymarket station is already accessible, with lifts to all platforms and to street level.

We don’t even need a new set of expensive trains, as London has done for train connections to Heathrow: we just need to add a new stop on the line. Even more efficient than the Airlink buses, far cheaper than any trams project, and neatly allowing tourists who intend to land at Edinburgh and travel to other parts of Scotland to do so seamlessly.

The original plan to replace the 22 bus route with a tram line that could whisk people from Newhaven to the airport didn’t have much of a point to it: the current plan, which amounts to replacing the Airlink buses as far as Haymarket with a tramline that will cost over a billion, is so monstrously stupid I cannot believe anyone who knows Edinburgh transport could listen to it with a straight face, let alone vote for it! We need to take the train, not build a brand new tram line that replicates the train route!

Incidentally, Edinburgh Trams have already cost more than covering Princes Street with gold. Let’s not throw more gold on the streets. Please.

*Update: Greener Leith seems to have been the originator: Twitter misled me. There’s a slideshow at the Greener Leith blog of Twitter reactions to the Edinburgh Council debate:

to give you a sense of the strength of feeling the debate has produced. It would seem most Leithers simply want to get Leith Walk repaired as quickly as possible.

Amen to that.

Update: on Twitter, last night, I got into a discussion with Tom Parnell (@ArchHist) who asserted and repeatedly defended that the #TakeTheTrain alternative to the trams is not workable because it would require more trains which would require building new lines which would require rebuilding Waverley Station, all of which would cost billions. (He also asserted that the Airlink bus service, which can get you from the airport to Edinburgh in 15 minutes to half an hour depending on traffic, is “not mass transit!” but I’ve been on a lot worse and more expensive bus-connections between airports and city centre in my travels.)

There is a purpose-built trainlink between Paddington Station in London and Heathrow Airport. Trains run every fifteen minutes and take fifteen minutes there and back.

The trainlink between Waverley Station and Edinburgh Airport, presuming only existing rail lines and the same train frequency as now were used, would run four times an hour and take less than fifteen minutes to reach the airport. So the argument dismissing #TakeTheTrain as too costly presumes that Edinburgh Airport will need a faster and more frequent train service from Edinburgh than Heathrow does from London.

Edinburgh Airport saw 8,596,715 passengers in 2010.

Heathrow Airport saw 67 million passengers in 2010.


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Tramfail Edinburgh

Years ago, back before the 2008 banks failure, there was a plan to build shiny new blocks of flats out along Newhaven breakwater and other shiny new buildings along Leith waterfront.  The wealthy people who would live there would step into a tram – the terminus at Newhaven – and in a few stops be at Princes Street, or stay on and reach Edinburgh Airport. This was going to cost £545 million, mostly funded by a £500M grant from the Scottish Government.

What the regular people, those of us who use public transport daily, thought and said was:

But wait! The railway line goes directly past Edinburgh Airport. Commuters between Edinburgh and Fife pass the airfield every day of the working week. Instead of paying £545 million for a connecting line from Newhaven to the airport, why not pay far less and get a railway halt by the airfield, and a connecting road between the halt and the airport, and spring for a fleet of transport buses for the road?

Granted that would have meant that the rich folks who were in principle going to be living out at Newhaven, and the Scottish Government employees from Victoria Quay (the tram would have gone right past them), would have had to plan on getting by public transport from their home or their work to Waverley or Haymarket, and getting on the train, rather than one beautifully comfortable ride, but it would have cost less.

But wait! The tram line is going to occupy a fair amount of space on Edinburgh’s not-very-wide streets. There already is a public transport service that goes from Ocean Terminal along Princes Street to the Gyle regularly, one of the most useful buses in LRT’s fleet, the 22 – and this tram line is going to ensure that the 22 runs less frequently, at the very least.

Granted getting on a bus and finding the exact change and sitting with a lot of plebs isn’t as glam as a shiny new tram. But we vote too, the many who ride on the bus.

This was all before any of the other issues came up. All along the proposed tram route, including Leith Walk, Princes Street, and Shandwick Place – three of the busiest streets in Edinburgh – the road was going to have to be closed down and dug up. For months at a time. To move and refurbish old pipe and wires, so that – eventually – tram lines could be laid. Leith, hardest hit for years, got least attention or compensation. But the roadworks hurt everybody. And what was said, in a friend of a friend of friend way, was that the company hired at the start to evaluate the costs of the tram enterprise and the damage the road closures would do to business, had been told they must provide a positive report: that any doubts they had about the timescale or the costs must be squelched.

Edinburgh Trams Taking You To Work In 2011For a while there were boards down Leith Walk advertising that the trams would take you to work in 2011. They got taken down in early 2010, but well before that, everyone knew – 2011 was an early estimate date, not a final completion date.

And then the council met, and decided that the best solution was to truncate the line – the rich people’s homes out at Newhaven weren’t being built or bought, and the tram had never been meant for the plebs, so the best solution was to have it go from St Andrew’s Square all the way out to the airport: a tram line running in parallel to the train line that already goes to the airport. Further public transport disruption, more costs, for a line of doubtful value in the first place.

Edinburgh Trams At Ocean TerminalFor a while there were a pair of tram carriages at Ocean Terminal, for people to admire, but they’ve gone too.

The costs of this truncated project are currently estimated at £830 million and probably more. The project has already cost £550 million and terminating it would cost the council £180 million more as a one-off payment which they don’t have the revenue to cover (and the Scottish Government refuses to help). I suppose the Council are still hoping that if they can only get a shiny new tram line running, gradually people will forget.

I doubt it.

–Update: Oh wait.

The council’s report, which wasn’t going to be available till Monday, is now online:

Section 3.20 deals with the costs of just quitting – no longer throwing good money after bad. “The specific agreement reached at mediation was that each of the Consortium members would prepare sealed envelope estimates of their costs for walking away from the contract in the event that the Council was unable to secure the necessary funding to complete the project. Further discussions now indicate, in the event that the Council is unable to secure approval of the funding to complete to St. Andrew Square, termination of the contract by this mechanism, resolving all related liabilities, as at the 25 August, i.e. some £80m below the costs of unilateral separation as previously calculated. However, it should be noted that this is currently not legally binding.”

So it will probably cost £100M to wrap up the project and admit it was a foolish idea. But no one really knows, still, what it will cost to build the tramline from St Andrew’s Square to the airport.

Update, 31st May 2014


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