Edinburgh cuts price of Christmas after flood of complaints

Flashback... staff dismantle an attraction. Some were criticised last year. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Flashback... staff dismantle an attraction. Some were criticised last year. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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THE organisers of Edinburgh’s Christmas events are to reduce ticket prices in the wake of stinging criticism over the cost of last year’s festivities.

Despite impressive attendance figures over both the Christmas and Hogmanay festivals last year, they will offer enhanced family activities and improved ticket offers for Edinburgh residents this year.

The contractor has committed to offering “a more affordable programme of attractions” for 2014-15 while it is understood that there are also plans to extend the reach of the event.

Last year’s offering was criticised for the high cost of food and drink and the prices of attractions – for example the cost of riding the Santa Train was said to be more expensive per mile than travelling on the Orient Express.

A typical family of four was charged £42 for ice skating and £28 for a ride on the Big Wheel, while a spin on the carousel would cost a further £16.

The month-long event also hit the headlines when the plastic moulding from the back of a seat on the 150ft high Star Flyer broke off and fell on to the ride’s box office roof.

As a result of ongoing demolition work in St Andrew Square, organisers are currently in discussion with council officers to determine a suitable alternative site for the ride.

Despite the criticisms and controversies, overall both the Christmas and Hogmanay festivals were viewed as a success by Underbelly, the Fringe promoters who masterminded the festivities for the first time in 2013.

A total of 1.34 million revellers attended the St Andrew Square and Princes Street sites – the ice rink attracted 33,000 visitors and the Big Wheel saw 120,000 people take a ride.

Footfall was particularly high in Princes Street where it increased by 16.8 per cent on the same period the previous year.

A spokesman for Underbelly said: “This year we are planning to build on that success, and the details will be made public at our launch on 29 September. Part of that programme will also look to ensure we learn from some of the lessons of last year.

“In particular, while there was a range of free activities last year, we will be looking to introduce more low and lower-cost events to help make a visit to Edinburgh’s Christmas more affordable for families.

“Finally, we are examining options to relocate the Star Flyer because of the building work in St Andrew Square.”

Council leaders approved a radical overhaul of the city’s Christmas attractions when it awarded a three-year contract to Underbelly to run the prize winter festivals.

A report updating the council on how the first year went is to appear before its policy and strategy committee next week.

City festivals and events champion, Councillor Steve Cardownie, said: “We appointed Underbelly and Unique to reinvigorate our winter festivals, particularly Edinburgh’s Christmas, and as this report demonstrates they delivered. The programme was bigger, better and more varied than ever before and the boost to the city in footfall and spend was clear for all to see.

“We have since reviewed all aspects of performance and I am pleased that they have taken on board our feedback and lessons have been learned. We welcome plans to make the programme more family friendly and improve ticket offers for local