PASSENGERS on Edinburgh’s £776m tram line will be left wet and windswept because of the “minimalist” shelters at stops, critics have claimed.
• The shelter designs are said to be inadequate for people waiting for long
• The shelters are 8ft wide and between 13ft and 40ft long.
While the system boasts state-of-the-art trams that will speed people across the capital in just over a year’s time, those waiting to board will be offered little protection from the elements, it is feared.
Passenger watchdogs, old people’s groups and planning experts said the tall, thin design of the glass and steel shelters was inadequate for people who will have to wait up to ten minutes for a tram.
Edinburgh airport chiefs are understood to have also had misgivings about the narrow width of the shelter at the tram terminus there.
However, the city council said a tram would always be there for immediate boarding.
The shelters on the eight-mile route to the city centre are 8ft wide and between 13ft and 40ft long, with longer ones at the airport and Haymarket.
Stops with the smallest shelters include at Ingliston park and ride, the Gyle shopping centre, Edinburgh Park, Bankhead, Saughton and Balgreen.
The shelters are also less enclosed than many of those at bus stops or on railway station platforms.
Watchdog body Bus Users Scotland said the shelters would give a poor first impression of the tram system and could deter potential passengers.
Senior officer Gavin Booth said: “If people are to be attracted to public transport of any kind, the whole experience has to be right. “So while the new Edinburgh trams represent state-of-the-art transport, as do Lothian’s latest buses, passengers expect the same quality in everything from the provision of information to the waiting facilities.
“A cold, wet passenger is less likely to consider the public transport option again.
“Passengers will probably be looking for more protection from the elements.”
Age Scotland, which describes itself as the leading national authority on older people, said the shelters were style over substance.
Its spokesman said: “They do look stylish but don’t seem to offer much protection from the horizontal rain that drives across the Central Belt from a variety of directions on a regular basis, being protected from just one direction.
“There could perhaps also be concerns about the provision of seating in the shelters and space for wheelchair users.”
The city council’s opposition Conservative group called for a rethink.
Transport spokeswoman Joanna Mowat said: “The tram stops appear to have been designed for a sunnier climate without Edinburgh’s driving rain and winds.
“Given the exposed nature of some of the western parts of the route, the shelters will make tram stops unwelcoming places to wait in bad weather. A more substantial shelter would seem to be the required.”
Planning experts said the shelters compared unfavourably with those on tram lines in English cities.
Edinburgh-based town planning consultant Robert Drysdale said: “It does seem the tram shelters which have been provided on the section out to the airport are very minimal.
“For example, the Ingliston stop is expected to be very busy, but it’s in an exposed location and the small shelters there will not provide much cover for waiting passengers.
“The new tram stops in Manchester are being provided with much more extensive canopies, capable of sheltering a full tram-load of people.”
However, the city council said the size of the shelters reflected how busy each stop was expected to be.
Transport convener Lesley Hinds said: “Shelters at tram stops have been specifically designed to cater to the anticipated passenger flows at each location.”“All shelters along the route, except York Place, are based on a common design approach, to reinforce the identity of the system.
“The shelter at York Place is based upon a standard bus shelter design due to tight clearances.
A council spokeswoman added: “Glazed side panels will be used to achieve a level of weather protection, particularly to the rear and sides of the shelters, but these have generally needed to remain open-sided towards the platforms to maximise pedestrian circulation and levels of usable space.
“In the city centre and World Heritage Site - Shandwick Place, Princes Street and St Andrew Square - the design of the shelters will also ensure a minimalist design approach, reducing street clutter and visual impact in sensitive locations.”
The spokeswoman said the shelters were not broader because of “safety clearances for the tram operation, operator requirements and anticipated passenger flows at each location.”