Leaders: Edinburgh trams are on track | Rotherham
FIRST hundred days are often used, for no good reason other than the roundness of the number, as the appropriate period to judge whether something new, ranging from a government to a public building, has been a success or failure.
So how is it with that favourite bone that Edinburgh’s citizens like to gnaw on – the tram?
Curiously, given all the forewarnings of financial doom and wasted public money, the signs seem pretty good. It has carried just over 1.5 million people in its first 100 days of commercial operation, roughly where it needs to be to hit its first-year targets.
The launch week was, of course, extremely busy as the transport buffs, the merely curious, and the mildly interested tourists all climbed on board. But it has turned out that those who wanted to experience a little bit of the transport history of the tram returning to Scotland after half a century’s absence were only about a third of the first week’s travellers.
Since then, numbers have settled down to slightly more than 90,000 passenger journeys per week, broadly in the ballpark for it to be doing its people conveying job. Pleasingly, disruptions caused by power failures, breakdowns, and stupidly parked cars, have been kept to a minimum.
Of course, passenger numbers have been boosted by one-off events, such as Champions League football matches at Murrayfield, big concerts, and one of Edinburgh’s busiest ever festivals. Even allowing for this, Ian Craig, chief executive of Transport for Edinburgh, claims that the tram is contributing to a genuine increase in the use of public transport in the city.
As use of buses is also up, it may be that some people who have found that using the tram is not as horrid as they feared have also been lured into using the bus and, much to their surprise, found that it is not unpleasant either. If so, in such a congested city as Edinburgh, anything that encourages people to leave their car at home is good news. It also seems to us that tram complaint levels have diminished almost to zero. It may be that people are preoccupied with some other hot topic (what could that be?), but it may also indicate that people have come to accept the tram as part of the city’s landscape rather more quickly than once seemed possible.
The fact is that the trams are a welcome addition to the city centre landscape and lend a modern, European look to our capital city. The bigger question is if the cost is justified.
Of course, once that other thing, whatever it is, is out of the way, attention of the grumblers may switch back. Or they may have other and bigger things to concentrate on. And it is also the case that the numbers which have been released fall short of being a full balance sheet for what the tram is or is not contributing.
But it does seem likely that it is heading to be a more acceptable addition to the city than seemed possible just a few months ago.
More resignations required
Martin Kimber’s resignation as chief executive of Rotherham Council is overdue, but takes a step in the right direction towards repairing the terrible damage done to the town and its people by the child sex abuse scandal. But why, it has to be asked, has it taken Mr Kimber two weeks since the publication of the report revealing the massive extent of the abuse to decide to step down?
When failures in public services emerge, there can be a case for officials to stay in their posts as the best qualified fixers of the problem. There is not, however, the slightest argument in favour of that in this instance.
In autumn 2009, the year when Mr Kimber became chief executive, a report by government watchdog Ofsted said that the council’s children’s services were inadequate and children’s safety was at risk. By then, evidence, which was not hard to find, was piling up to say that the sexual exploitation of young boys and girls by a despicable gang was a very serious problem.
Mr Kimber surely should have made dealing with that a priority. But he seems to have been part of the cover-up mentality which, for one poor reason or another, pervaded the police and council services. It is because of that, more than anything else, that it should have been clear to him that he had to go.
Others should also be clear about that, particularly South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Shaun Wright. He was in charge of children’s services in Rotherham from 2005 to 2010, and looks even more culpable than Mr Kimber.
This scandal urgently needs clean hands and people capable of a fearless clean-up to restore public confidence.