Edinburgh Trams: Party atmosphere on opening day

FROM the whooping, cheering and jovial banter it was impossible to tell that many of the 200-odd people riding Edinburgh’s first tram of the 21st century yesterday had been up all night.
One of many pictures taken on the first day of the Edinburgh Trams. Picture: Lisa FergusonOne of many pictures taken on the first day of the Edinburgh Trams. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
One of many pictures taken on the first day of the Edinburgh Trams. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

The atmosphere on the inaugural fare-paying journey was more akin to a party than a commuter service, with all talk of the £200 million budget over-run and three-year delay seemingly forgotten.

The 250-capacity vehicle was jammed to bursting with people of all ages who became the first to board a tram in the capital for 58 years. Many of those who turned up at the Gyle Centre tram stop for the 5am service had come along just for the ride – to be part of the landmark event in Edinburgh’s story.

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Special limited-edition platinum tickets were issued to mark the maiden trip, with the first purchased “unintentionally” by self-confessed tram enthusiast Aidan Croft as machines came online at 4am.He had travelled from Sheffield, where he works as a conductor on the Supertram, arriving at 1.15am.

He said it was just luck he was first in the queue.

Physiotherapist Louise Mac­lellan, 28, and software engineer Jamie Cockburn, 29, stayed up all night and took the night bus from the city centre to catch the first departure.

They arrived with handmade placards reading “Ding Ding” and “Trams R Gr8”, both sporting jaunty party hats. Cockburn had even worn his kilt to mark the occasion.

“We just wanted to be part of Edinburgh’s history,” ­Maclellan said.

They were travelling to the end of the line at York Place, before heading home to London Road and bed.

One couple had travelled from the Netherlands to be on the first tram, while Matthew Carson, 17, celebrated his birthday on board.

A Jack Russell called Flossie was the first canine passenger, and looked as though she enjoyed the trip from the vantage point of her owner’s lap.

There were even a few ravers who had come straight from a night out, a little unsteady on their feet but determined to keep the good times rolling a while longer.

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Tom Parker, 23, is studying fire safety engineering at Edinburgh University, had also skipped bed.

“I didn’t go to sleep. I just wanted to be on the first one. After all this time and effort, it’s nice to see it completed,” he said.

But he reckons only time will tell whether the trams will become a success story for Edinburgh, as they have in cities such as Dublin and Sheffield.

“I’ve just come along for the ride, and it’s grand – fast, efficient, smooth.

“I’m not entirely convinced it will be worthwhile – we’ll have to wait and see. Maybe if they ever actually extend the route to Leith, like they were going to.

“After all the controversy it might go down in infamy, but it will be good for tourists coming in from the airport. Hopefully it will bring more commerce to the city.”

Karen di Rollo, 50, a property manager from Fairmilehead, said: “It’s really good, really exciting, really fast and everyone’s in great spirits.”

She won’t be a regular tram-user herself because of the limited route, but says her clients flying in from abroad will benefit from the service.

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“It’s historic – change like this is good for the city,” she added.

The first official eastbound tram took 29 minutes to cover the eight miles and 11 stops from Gyle Centre to York Place.

Margaret Fletcher got on there for the primary westward run to the airport. She was travelling to Dublin with her husband and daughter to see Glasgow Warriors play rugby against Leinster, taking the tram instead of a taxi. “But I think the buses were perfectly adequate as it’s a very good service.

Andrew McBrierty, who lives in the city’s Ferry Road, said he had got up early because he wanted to be “part of history being made”.

However, the customer service manager is unlikely to ride the trams often. “I will keep on using the bus, because this doesn’t serve where I work or live,” he said. “It would be better if there was a larger route. It might give Edinburgh a European feel but I think it’s very much a novelty thing. It’s more for the tourists, not really for locals.”

For some it was a chance to share their experiences with the wider world and many ­passengers turned to social media to post on-tram selfies. Meanwhile others took advantage of the free onboard WiFi to update their Facebook ­statuses.