Edinburgh Trams

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Edinburgh Trams
New logo of Edinburgh Trams.png
Edinburgh trams, driver training 1.JPG
Trams on Princes Street in March 2014
Owner Transport for Edinburgh
Locale Edinburgh, Scotland
Transit type Tramway
Number of lines 1
Number of stations 16
Website www.edinburghtrams.com
Operation will start May 2014
Operator(s) Edinburgh Trams Limited
Number of vehicles 27 CAF trams
Train length 42.8 metres (140 ft 5 in)
System length 14 kilometres (8.7 mi)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Electrification 750 V DC OHLE
Top speed 70 km/h (43 mph) off-street

Edinburgh Trams is a tramway undergoing preliminary testing in Edinburgh, Scotland. The first phase of the project consists of a sixteen-station, 14-kilometre (8.7 mi) link between York Place in the New Town and Edinburgh Airport.[1][2][3] Construction began in 2007, but was met with many delays and contractual disputes. Only two-thirds of the line proposed at the start of construction has been built. The line was originally meant to stretch from the airport to Newhaven, but was truncated owing to a funding crisis.[4] A second line running from Haymarket to Granton Square was postponed indefinitely. A further proposal for a line serving the Southside was not approved by the Scottish Parliament and not funded. The tramway is operated by Edinburgh Trams Limited, a company owned by Transport for Edinburgh.[5]

The first part of the tram system was originally scheduled to open in February 2011.[6] By March 2010, project delays had resulted in the prime contractor revising their estimated completion date to 2014, and by the end of 2010 only 28 per cent of the infrastructure had been completed.[7][8] The whole scheme was originally costed in 2003 at £375 million.[9] A report issued in August 2011 estimated that the final cost of the truncated network would be more than £1 billion, including £228 million of interest payments on a 30-year loan to cover the funding shortfall.[10]

Work on the tramway's infrastructure was complete by October 2013, and testing of the trams has begun.[11] The tramway is scheduled to open by May 2014.[12]


Edinburgh's previous tram system, Edinburgh Corporation Tramways, ran from 1871 until it was decommissioned on 16 November 1956.[13][14] Since then, public transport services have consisted of buses and a limited network of commuter rail lines. Towards the end of the 20th century, there was revived interest in trams, and several British cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Nottingham introduced new schemes.[15]

Various proposals for a new Edinburgh tram network were made in the 1990s, and a plan to build a line along Princes Street and Leith Walk to Newhaven pier was proposed in 1999 by the City of Edinburgh Council, Lothian and Edinburgh Enterprise and the New Edinburgh Tramways Company.[16][17]

Proposals for a new Edinburgh tram network[edit]

The original 2001 proposal for Edinburgh Trams envisaged three routes across the city, lines 1, 2 and 3. The first was a circular route running around the northern suburbs, and the other two formed radial routes running out to Newbridge in the west and Newcraighall in the south respectively.[18] All lines would have run through the city centre. In May 2004, a 15-year operating contract for Edinburgh Trams was awarded to Transdev, who were to operate and maintain the tram network.[19][20] This contract was cancelled in 2009.[5]

Following these transport studies, two bills were submitted to the Scottish Parliament to reintroduce a tram network to Edinburgh. Both bills were passed in March 2006, and received Royal Assent in April/May.[21][22] Only lines 1 and 2 received parliamentary permission, and funding the construction of the entire network was deemed impossible. Line 3, which was meant to be paid for by a proposed Edinburgh congestion charge, was scrapped when that scheme was heavily defeated in a referendum. For this reason the construction of the remaining two lines was split into four phases:

  • Phase 1a would incorporate the construction of an 18.5-kilometre (11.5 mi) line from Newhaven to Edinburgh Airport via Princes Street, combining parts of lines 1 and 2.
  • Phase 1b would involve the construction of a 5.6-kilometre (3.5 mi) line from Haymarket to Granton Square via Crewe Toll, comprising most of the remainder of line 1.
  • Phase 2 would link Granton Square and Newhaven together, completing the line 1 loop.
  • Phase 3 would have the airport line extended to Newbridge, completing line 2.
A map of the planned tramway

The future of the tram scheme came under threat in 2007, when the Scottish National Party (SNP) published its manifesto for the Scottish Parliamentary election. In that document, the party made clear its intention to cancel the scheme, along with the Edinburgh Airport Rail Link, to save a total of £1.1bn.[23] In the debate on the government's transport programme, opposition politicians made statements defending the Edinburgh Trams project. Labour MSP Wendy Alexander said "The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change claimed that the costs were out of control, but they are not."[24] Following a vote which it lost in the Scottish Parliament, the SNP-led minority Scottish Government agreed to continue with the line from the Airport to Leith on condition that no more public money would be supplied if the project overran. A report by Audit Scotland, commissioned by the Scottish Government, confirmed that the cost projections were sound.[25][26] Initial costs for the scheme were estimated at £498 million, with £375 million in funding from the Scottish Government and £45 million from Edinburgh council.[27]

On 25 October 2007, the City of Edinburgh Council gave approval to the Final Business Case. Approval was given by the Council on 22 December 2007 for TIE to sign contracts with CAF for the supply of the vehicles and BBS (a consortium of Siemens and Bilfinger Berger) for the design and construction of the network.[28] Contract negotiations finished in April 2008, and construction started in June 2008.[29] Funding problems and political disputes led to scaling back of the original plans. In April 2009, Edinburgh City Council announced the cancellation of phase 1b of the project, citing problems caused by the global recession, saving an estimated £75 million.[30] This decision meant that the construction of the line to Granton was indefinitely postponed.[31]

Tram works: 2007–2012[edit]

Tracks being laid on Princes Street in November 2009. These were later the subject of remedial works.

Until August 2011, the construction project was overseen by Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (TIE), a company wholly owned by the City of Edinburgh Council, who were responsible for project-managing the construction of the tramway.[32]

After the draft business case was accepted by the Scottish Government in March 2007,[33] initial construction work commenced in July 2007, with the diversion of underground utilities in preparation for track-laying in Leith.[34] These works followed a plan by System Design Services (SDS), a joint design team led by Parsons Brinckerhoff and Halcrow Group Limited.

In May 2008, final contracts to build the tram system were awarded to BSC, a consortium of Bilfinger Berger, Siemens and Spanish tram builder Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF).[35]

The initial tramway uses a mix of street running and segregated off-road track, with conventional tram stop platforms.[2] Stops are fitted with shelters, ticket machines, lighting and CCTV. The network will be operated from a depot at Gogar, close to the A8 roundabout, just north of the Gyle tram stop.[36]

The route of the tram line required the construction of new bridges to cross railway lines at Edinburgh Park and Stenhouse, and a tunnel under the A8 near the Gogar roundabout. An existing bridge at Balgreen was widened.[37] The works to build a tram interchange at Haymarket station involved the demolition of a Category C(S) listed building, the former Caledonian Alehouse on Haymarket Terrace.[38]

Some on-street sections of track had been laid into a special foundation with cobbled road surfacing designed to be sympathetic with the existing style of Edinburgh streets. This was removed in many places due to objections from cyclists.[39] The trams are powered by overhead cables, which are either attached to purposely-built poles or mounted to the sides of buildings.[40] There were to be nine electrical sub-stations for the line to Newhaven, both underground and above-ground.[41] The number of sub-stations was later reduced to five when the line was truncated at York Place.[42]

Project revisions and delays[edit]

In 2008 and 2009, the project was met with delays to work on tramway infrastructure.

Phase 1b of the tram construction project was cancelled due to financial problems in April 2009.[30] Contractual disputes delayed track-laying work in the city centre. In December 2009, there were media reports that the project budget was running over £545 million, and that the tram system was likely to come into operation at least seven months late, putting the launch date back to February 2012 or later.[43] Reports in January 2010 suggested that important milestones of the construction schedule had slipped by up to two years.[44] In March 2010, Bilfinger Berger announced that the construction work would be delayed by a further 30 months, with an estimated completion date in 2014.[7] The operating contract with Transdev was cancelled in December 2009, to reduce costs; the trams are instead operated by Edinburgh Trams Limited, a company owned by Transport for Edinburgh.[5][45]

Contractual disputes[edit]

In February 2009, work on the Princes Street section of the works was stopped due to contractual disagreements between TIE and the BSC construction consortium. BSC reportedly submitted a late request for an additional £80 million funding which TIE was unable to meet.[46][47] Dave Anderson, Edinburgh City Council's Director of City Development, expressed the view in an interview with the BBC's You and Yours radio programme, that the contractors' claims were unjustified as they had agreed to fixed-price contracts and to bear the project risks.[48] After negotiations, BSC agreed to commence construction work in March 2009 within the original budget, although disagreements remained.[49] Work restarted and line construction went ahead. In August 2009, TIE began legal proceedings against the BSC consortium over delays to the project,[50] and track-laying works on Leith Walk, Shandwick Place and Haymarket were suspended pending the outcome. At issue were a number of alleged changes to BSC's work specification, including track works on Princes Street and £5 million additional costs on foundation work near Murrayfield Stadium. The BSC consortium also alleged that TIE had not diverted the underground utilities in time for track-laying to begin, breaching contractual agreements and costing the consortium additional staffing expenditure.[51] In January 2010 the independent arbiter found in favour of TIE on some points, but on most of the disputed issues the arbiter ruled in favour of BSC and awarded the consortium 90% of their additional costs, estimated to be worth up to £80m.[52]

Delays in track laying and depot construction affected tram vehicle testing. By September 2009, the construction work was reported to be nine months behind schedule, and CAF was due to deliver the first newly built trams from its factory in Spain. With a key project dependency out of synchronisation, TIE held discussions with Transport for London about delivering the trams to Croydon to conduct operational tests on the Tramlink network.[53][54] In the end, tram vehicle testing commenced in March 2010 on the Siemens test track in Wildenrath, Germany.[55] The tests included artificially recreating the steep gradients of Leith Walk, and using weights to simulate the heavy passenger load expected during a Murrayfield match day.[56][57]

Funding crisis[edit]

Gogar depot in October 2012, with trams painted in an older livery, never used in service

Following further disputes and delays to the project, it was reported in March 2010 that Edinburgh Council were considering cancelling the contract with Bilfinger Berger.[58] By June 2010, the cost of the project had risen to £600 million.[59] Council project managers were reported to be in crisis talks, considering a number of options including: borrowing an extra £55 million to fund the increased costs; phasing the introduction of the tram line, so that trams would initially run only between the airport and Haymarket; and terminating the contract with Bilfinger Berger.[60] The Council asked TIE to draw up detailed costs for truncating the tram line at four possible places: Haymarket station, York Place, the foot of Leith Walk or Ocean Terminal.[61]

Workers were sent back to work in May 2011 at priority locations, such as the Haymarket Yards and Gogar, while the future of the project was decided by the Council. In August 2011 it was announced TIE would be disbanded with consultants Turner & Townsend taking over management of the project.[62][63]

On 30 June 2011, Edinburgh Council voted to continue with the project, though only between Edinburgh Airport and St Andrew Square. Costs rose to an estimated £770m, leaving the Council with a shortfall of more than £200m.[4][64] The option of scrapping the project was considered, but rejected.[65] On 25 August 2011, the Council voted to cut the line further to run only between the airport and Haymarket, reducing the expected cost to £715m.[66] A week later, after the Scottish Government threatened to withhold £72 million of funding,[67] they reversed this decision, restoring the terminus at St Andrew Square.[4] On 29 November 2011 it was announced that the eastern terminus of the tram line would be at York Place instead of St Andrew Square; the intention had been to build the tracks to a reversing point at York Place (but without a stop for passengers). Extending passenger services from St Andrew Square to an additional stop at York Place would enable Broughton Street, Picardy Place and the surrounding area to be better served at comparatively little additional cost.[68]

The first electric wires were energised in October 2011, above newly laid track within the depot at Gogar. Testing of trams began in December 2011 on the first part of the line to be completed (near the depot at Gogar, approximately 500 metres (550 yd) in length).[69][70] On 15 December 2011, the depot was handed over from the contractors to the City of Edinburgh Council.[71]

The first section of the line to be completed was between the depot and Edinburgh Airport, in late 2012. Using this section of line, on 19 December 2012 the first test operation of a tram at full speed was made.[72]

Criticism of the works[edit]

Tramway works outside Haymarket railway station in August 2012

Delays in the tram works were criticised by local businesses, who claimed that their income was damaged by long-term road closures in the centre of Edinburgh, and by also by some Edinburgh residents.[48][73][74]

Cycling groups in the city voiced safety concerns after some cyclists suffered accidents when their bicycle wheels became caught in tracks. They also reported that the road surface around the tracks was crumbling, raising further safety problems. In response, TiE promised to carry out road repairs, and Edinburgh Trams agreed to fund special training for local cyclists.[75] Further safety concerns were raised by residents along the tram routes about the suspension of overhead electric cables from residential buildings, with some property owners refusing to give permission for the cables to be attached.[56]

To remedy the crumbling tarmac that had been found around the tracks on Princes Street, the road was closed again in September 2011. It remained closed for ten months.[76][77] The closure of the road between Haymarket and Shandwick place in March 2012 led to further complaints from some local businesses and residents. This stretch of road remained closed until October 2013.[11][78][79]

2013 to present[edit]

Work after late 2012 continued mostly on schedule, and there was talk of opening the tram system by late 2013, ahead of the 2014 deadline.[80]

In May 2013, Edinburgh Council stated that more than 150 metres (160 yd) of concrete trackbed would have to be replaced between Shandwick Place and Haymarket, because the concrete was not laid to the correct specifications.[81] Contractors later admitted their error with regard to the concrete, and remedial works began. This led to further disruption of Shandwick Place and Haymarket.[82]

It was originally planned that concessionary travel, which allows those with a Scottish National Entitlement Card to travel on buses free of charge, was not going to be offered on the tram system.[83] Following an Edinburgh Evening News campaign to ensure that concessionary travel would be offered on the new tram system, city transport convener Lesley Hinds stated "People in Edinburgh have paid through their council tax and their taxes for the trams to get up and running and it would be wrong for a large proportion of the population not to be allowed to use their concessionary bus pass".[83]

Trams at West End tram stop during driver training in March 2014

The Scottish Government refused to pay for free travel on the trams for holders of concession cards, as it does for bus routes within Scotland. Talks between the Scottish Government and Edinburgh Council decided that cards should be valid for tram travel, but that they should be paid for by the council instead of the government.[84] It was revealed in August 2013 that the cards would be valid, and that travel would be paid for by Edinburgh Council for people with cards issued in Edinburgh.[85] This compromise upset some people in the Lothians, who often commute or travel into Edinburgh.[86]

Testing of the trams between the depot and Edinburgh Park began on 8 October 2013. This was followed by the energising of tram wires from Bankhead tram stop to York Place on 19 November, marking the first time that the route was completely energised.[87] Testing along the full length of the route began on 5 December 2013.[88][89][90]

Rolling stock[edit]

A tram on Princes Street in March 2014

A £40 million contract to build twenty-seven trams, sufficient for both the phase 1a and (unbuilt) 1b lines, was awarded to CAF. As the line was cut back to York Place, only seventeen of the trams would be needed.[91] An unsuccessful attempt was made in 2011 to lease the extra trams to Transport for London for use on Tramlink.[92]

The trams are bi-directional, 42.8 metres (140 ft 5 in) long and built with low-floor access to meet UK Rail Vehicle Access Regulations for disabled people.[93][94] Each tram has a capacity of 332, allowing for 80 seated and 252 standing passengers.[95]

A full size mockup of the front of the proposed tram was constructed in 2009 and put on display on Princes Street for the public to view,[96] later moving to Constitution Street at the foot of Leith Walk in April 2009.[97]

In April 2010, the first tram was delivered and put on display at the Princes Street stop at the bottom of The Mound.[98] It was later moved to open storage in Broxburn.[99] The 27th tram was delivered in December 2012.[100]

Trams are painted in a livery mandated by Transport for Edinburgh, which is shared with minor variation by Lothian Buses. It consists of white, with rose madder and platinum stripes. This livery was adopted after two previous liveries were discarded.[101]

Operations, fares and ticketing[edit]


Start of the segregated track at Haymarket Yards in March 2014

The 14-kilometre (8.7 mi) route begins running on-street at York Place, in the city centre.[1][102] It then turns into North St Andrew Street, then crosses St Andrew Square. From the square, the line heads southeast into Princes Street, and then west along that street toward Haymarket, via Shandwick Place, Atholl Place, and West Maitland Street.[103] At Haymarket, the route heads off-street onto a segregated track that runs parallel to the Glasgow to Edinburgh mainline. It follows the railway line west for about 6.8 kilometres (4.2 mi), until it reaches Edinburgh Park railway station. At that station, it leaves the railway line on a segregated track and heads north to Gogar Roundabout. From the roundabout, the route heads northwest via Ingliston Park and Ride to Edinburgh Airport, where it terminates.[103]

Name Transport interchange Serves
York Place Broughton Street and neighbourhood
Omni Centre
Edinburgh Playhouse
St Andrew Square Bus interchange Lothian Buses
Edinburgh Bus Station
National Rail Waverley Station
St Andrew Square
St James Centre
Scottish National Portrait Gallery
Princes Street Princes Street
National Gallery of Scotland
The Mound
West End – Princes St Shandwick Place
St. Mary's (Episcopal) Cathedral
Haymarket National Rail Haymarket
Bus interchange Lothian Buses
Dalry Road and neighbourhood
Edinburgh International Conference Centre
Murrayfield Stadium Murrayfield Stadium
Roseburn area
Balgreen Edinburgh Zoo (approx. 600 metres)
Saughton Carrick Knowe area
Stenhouse area
Bankhead Stevenson College
Sighthill Industrial Estate
Edinburgh Park National Rail Edinburgh Park Hermiston Gait Retail Park
Edinburgh Park Central Edinburgh Park
Gyle Centre Gyle Shopping Centre
Edinburgh Gateway National Rail Edinburgh Gateway Expected to open by December 2016
Gogarburn Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters
Ingliston Park & Ride Bus interchange Lothian Buses
Edinburgh Airport Airport interchange Edinburgh Airport

Fare structure[edit]

Ticketing and fares will be fully integrated with Lothian Buses. The fare for a single journey on the tram network will be the same as on Lothian Buses, and day tickets and Ridacards will be valid on both the trams and buses.[104] Journeys to Edinburgh Gateway, and beyond to Edinburgh Airport will require a supplement, the cost of which has not been determined.[86][105]

Free travel will be available to those with Scottish National Entitlement Cards issued in Edinburgh. Passengers living outside Edinburgh will pay full fare.[86]

Ticket machines[edit]

Edinburgh residents visit a replica of the proposed trams on Princes Street in early 2009

At the request of Lothian Buses, installation of 30 ticket machines at key bus stops began in 2007. These allowed passengers to purchase tickets before boarding their bus, reducing dwell times and giving more time to select the right ticket for their journey.[106] The ticket machines were to have been modified to issue tram tickets once the service began, but owing to unpopularity with users they were scrapped in 2011. Consideration was given to installing similar on-street ticket machines[107] and new, more advanced machines (capable of reading smartcards and accepting credit/debit cards) were installed in early 2014 at each tram stop.


Fifty-two ticket inspectors have been hired to guard against fare dodging. This amounts to three inspectors per tram, as there are seventeen trams being prepared for service.[108] Edinburgh Council has said that they are aiming for a three per cent fare evasion rate, lower than any other tramway in Britain. The level of staffing has been criticised by various bodies as being "excessive".[109] Thirty-two drivers are being hired, after passing psychological tests designed to eliminate risk-takers.[110]

Journey times and frequency[edit]

The tram is proposed to operate every seven-and-a-half minutes, with a journey time of approximately 33 minutes from the city centre to the airport.[111] The service is expected to run from 06:00 until midnight on Monday through to Saturday. On Sunday, it is proposed that the service will run from 07:00 until midnight.[93]

See also[edit]


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