Edinburgh trams tested on city’s streets

Picture: Neville Lawther
Picture: Neville Lawther
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People in Edinburgh were warned yesterday to beware of the trams as testing reached city streets for the first time.

The first tram trundled through the Gyle at a walking pace, but the city council said vehicles would gradually speed up to 30mph in coming weeks.

Testing has begun on the Edinburgh Tram network. Picture: Neil Hanna

Testing has begun on the Edinburgh Tram network. Picture: Neil Hanna

The start of testing on a 1.3-mile section of the route between the Gogar tram depot and Edinburgh Park railway station brings trams closer to Edinburgh residents than ever.

Trams – previously limited to a two-mile, largely rural section between the depot and Edinburgh airport – will now encounter far more pedestrians and vehicles as they glide past the Gyle shopping centre and offices in Edinburgh Park.

Yesterday’s one return journey will be stepped up to 150 a day – one every seven minutes. Trams will also accelerate up to 42mph on off-road sections.

Testing will be extended further east towards the city centre in December, moving first to Haymarket, then on to York Place and St Andrew Square. The £776 million tram project is scheduled to be fully operational by May 2014.

Three minor roads cross the tracks on the airport section, but far more traffic uses Lochside Avenue and South Gyle Broadway at the Gyle, which the trams will now cross.

The crossings are controlled by traffic lights, but with no barriers or audible warnings, although the trams have distinctive bells. The trams have right of way over other traffic. There are also several pedestrian-only crossings in the area with warning signs. The testing aims to check trams work on the tracks and train drivers.

The city council transport convener Lesley Hinds said: “We are, of course, mindful of the fact that it will take some time for people to get used to trams running on the street, and both pedestrians and drivers should initially take extra care at points where the tram crosses the road.

“This section of the route will eventually see in excess of 150 tram test journeys a day, and so I’d encourage everyone to make sure they’re familiar with the safety advice on our website.

“Later in the year we’ll launch a full, city-wide safety campaign ahead of full route testing.”

The current publicity campaign, aimed at up to 15,000 people around the Gyle, includes posters, electronic signs and email circulars to firms.

A council spokesman said: “It’s important to be aware of trams as they make very little noise.

“At crossing points there will be big triangular warning signs to catch people’s attention.

The Automobile Association’s head of policy, Paul Watters, said: “One good thing for drivers is these things are pretty big, so you can see them coming and, like a lorry, give them a wide berth. Their size will intimidate, which is a good thing. The key thing for drivers is not to panic.”

Ms Hinds added: “With a new phase of tram testing now under way between Gogar and Edinburgh Park, the project continues to move forward and ever closer to completion.”