A SCRUM of standing passengers, a sudden jolt and then rapid acceleration.
Edinburgh’s first proper tram ride may have been an invitation-only affair, with photographers jostling for space on board, but the journey experience could prove little different for fare-paying travellers when services finally start running next year.
That’s because, unlike on the city’s buses, passengers will have to get used to standing, as only one third will get seats. And unlike the average double-decker, with a tram, it’s one sudden move and you’re off – and you’d better hold on because they speed up quick. In fact, it felt more like a slightly cramped commuter train than anything on the road.
The key difference with the tram is acceleration: one moment it slowed to take a right-angle bend, the next it glided away, rapidly building to a top speed of 45mph on the straight.
With no pomp or ceremony – not even an announcement before the tram suddenly moved off – the centre of attention aboard quickly turned to a couple sitting together at the front, apparently chatting away amiably for the cameras.
But separate them, and you’d be surprised that Keith Brown and Lesley Hinds were even on the same tram together. The transport minister looked comfortable enough on his light blue leather seat, but it soon became clear he was no more enthusiastic about trams than on his previous tram jaunt, round the Gogar depot 15 months ago. Back then, he described the sight of a tram which had been put on display in Princes Street as “incongruous” – and yesterday he said he hadn’t changed his mind.
Mr Brown did urge a swift completion of the current project, but he was effectively willing this particular tram to reach its destination and go absolutely no further.
By contrast, Ms Hinds, the city council’s transport convener, couldn’t get would-be passengers on board soon enough. Just like a previous tram chief who flew Edinburghers to see trams in Lyon a decade ago to try to win them over, she plans to get dozens of residents on to the capital’s newest rails within weeks.
In Lyon, opponents of the Edinburgh scheme were apparently surprised they couldn’t find anyone to bad mouth the French city’s trams.
Ms Hinds will no doubt hope her new tram tracks will equally prove to be Edinburgh’s road to Damascus for the sceptics.