LATE-NIGHT trams will not run during the Edinburgh Festival – sparking claims the city is missing out on a bumper payday from revellers and tourists.
The Capital’s twilight economy explodes during the August showcase, with many bars and nightclubs serving up drinks until 5am.
But transport chiefs have decided to stop running services on the £776 million tram network at 11.08pm – almost six hours before last orders are called.
Festival bosses have called for a U-turn while cabbies insist the city is poised for a “perfect storm” of transport chaos after a string of central taxi ranks were removed so restaurants could spill out onto the pavements.
Tommy Sheppard, who runs The Stand comedy club and the Assembly Rooms, said he was “surprised” tram chiefs failed to exploit a tourist windfall by running later services.
He said: “We’ve got shows running until 1.30am along the route and thousands of people for whom the tram would be an efficient and safe means to get home if they live in west Edinburgh. I think it would be good if they could reconsider that.
“It is very surprising. Normally the people who run public transport take a view on seasonal demand, so I would have thought that is a decision that needs reviewed.”
And he added: “But, I guess the taxi drivers will be happy.”
Comedian Susan Morrison, a Fringe veteran, said tram chiefs had made an “embarrasing” move.
“Are the tram operators seriously suggesting that everyone should be tucked up in their beds by the midnight hour?” she asked. “That’s ridiculous. Edinburgh is a tourist city, especially during August when we have people from all over the world coming here.
“They’d like to play on the trams, I’m sure.”
Councillor Gavin Corbett, finance spokesman for Edinburgh Greens, joined a chorus of calls to reverse the decision.
He said: “My instinct is that there must be a decent business case for extending the tram operation during the festival period given the increased footfall late at night.
“If so, I hope Transport for Edinburgh will look at it again.
“For years now, the city has sheepishly been telling visitors that the trams were eventually coming while admitting that the city centre was not looking its best during the work.
“Now that the trams have arrived at last, we should be doing all we can to ensure that visitors can actually use them.”
And Cllr Cameron Rose, leader of Edinburgh Conservatives, pulled no punches with tram bosses saying the network’s management was starting to look “unoriginal, unexciting and unhelpful”.
“This points to them not responding quickly enough to customer needs,” he said.
Meanwhile, director of Central Taxis Tony Kenmuir, said suspended taxi ranks in the city centre – ousted by outdoor decking on George Street and construction work in St Andrew Square – could cause a public order nightmare for the police as thousands of late-night revellers scrambled to get home.
He said: “You’ve got everbody spilling out of the Assembly Rooms, everybody spilling out of the Spiegeltent, how do they get home?
“That will be a security issue and a police issue.”
A spokeswoman for Transport for Edinburgh said: “We have no plans to introduce later journeys on Edinburgh Trams.
“Our Nightbus network will be fully operational throughout the festival and will offer safe, reliable transport to residents and visitors across the city.”
A spokeswoman for the council said: “Timetabling issues are a matter for Transport for Edinburgh.”