TRAM fares in the Scottish capital have been increased – before the first fee-paying passenger has even set foot on board.
The new fare list has revealed a return journey to the airport will cost £8 – 50p higher than the figure published last September and £1 more expensive than the current price of the airlink bus service.
The price increase, revealed yesterday, is the latest controversy for the scheme which has run three years over its original completion date and cost £776 million – up from the previous estimate of £545m.
Last night, tram expert Professor Lewis Lesley, technical director of Lancashire-based light rail company Trampower, said he thought the price increase was intended to help the network remain viable.
He said: “I would have thought the tram promoters will have done their arithmetic on the maximisation of revenue but given the amount the tramway has cost, there is no way this can be recovered from fares, so it’s just a matter of covering operating costs at this point.
“I’m sure they would have come to the conclusion that the tramway, being a smoother ride, would attract people who might otherwise go by taxi and therefore their competitor may not be the bus but the taxi.”
He said even at £8 return, the cost of taking the tram from the city to the airport was “a good bargain” when compared to the cost of the average taxi fare on the same route, which comes in at around £20.
A single ticket to the airport will cost £5, which has not gone up in price since last September.
It is understood all other routes on the trams will cost £1.50 for a single, which is the same rate as that charged by
Conservative transport spokeswoman councillor Joanna Mowat defended the costs, saying airport travel fares were comparable with those of many other major European cities.
She said: “I wouldn’t think twice about paying it if I was getting on a tram at any European airport right into the centre of city in around half an hour.”
Transport and planning consultant Robert Drysdale said he believed the airport stretch of the tram line would be “crucial to its economic success” given the number of residents and visitors who will use the route out to the west of the city for flights. He added: “Presumably, they are banking on being able to get a good number of people paying that £5 single fare.”
Figures out this week showed how Edinburgh airport saw a 5 per cent boost in Easter passenger numbers with around 840,000 travellers passing through the terminal.
Commenting on the price increase – which comes just days before the first fee paying passengers step on board on 31 May – an Edinburgh Trams spokesperson said: “Previously published prices were draft only. The finalised fare structure has been set against revenue requirements in line with the business plan.”
Further details also emerged yesterday of ticketing and wi-fi access on the trams.
Passengers will be able to scan a pre-paid card – dubbed City-smart – for single journeys within the city fare zone.
Similar to London’s Oystercard travel system, journeys can be “stockpiled” on the card and used when required without the need for a ticket machine.
Despite reports in January of free wi-fi across the fleet, only three trams are likely to be internet-equipped by the time the trams start taking passengers.
Councillor Lesley Hinds, transport convener, said: “The publication of this ticket and timetable information is an important step in the final preparations for commencing Edinburgh Trams passenger services. One of the key things we’re keen to emphasise is how straightforward it is to travel on both bus and tram – you can use your smartcard or day ticket on both.”