WITH just two days to go before the long-awaited launch of Edinburgh’s tram line, Alastair Dalton joined a test trip along the route.
IT’S like a very gentle rollercoaster. Travelling on a tram through Edinburgh won’t be the same as on either a bus or a train, as passengers will finally discover. They are likely to find the experience far smoother than that offered by the capital’s buses thanks to the trams gliding on rails rather than over pot-holed streets.
But while Glaswegians may find similarities to their suburban trains, the tram tracks are anything but flat or largely straight.
Most of the eight-mile route between Edinburgh Airport and York Place in the city centre is off street, where there are a surprising number of hills and tight bends for the trams to negotiate.
West of Haymarket, the tracks climb far above street level at several points and appear to zig-zag up the hill past Carrick Knowe golf course towards Saughton.
The route will also offer new views of Edinburgh, with a spectacular panoramic vantage point of Arthur’s Seat from the viaduct which lifts the tram over the railway line at Edinburgh Park.
Then the line swoops down to a new feature - a grass-covered section which the movement of the trams naturally “mows”. As the route leaves the tram depot beside the Gogar roundabout, passengers will find themselves in the countryside, surrounded by fields and woodland and crossing burns.
A sharp bend and the line heads into the final straight to the airport, where drivers can accelerate to the top speed of 43mph (70kmh).
Quite a contrast to 20mph along Princes Street, where the trams were this week cautiously approaching junctions.
With no queues to buy tickets from the driver - passengers must purchase them at stops before boarding - tram travel should be a far less frustrating experience than the sometimes sluggish pace of buses.
However, this week they appeared to have less of the advertised priority at traffic lights, especially at the Princes Street/Lothian Road junction - with pedestrians crossing at the green man coming first.