Ambulance parked on tram tracks raises jam fears

Tram jam in West End as emergency services attend. Picture: contributed
Tram jam in West End as emergency services attend. Picture: contributed
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THE Capital has witnessed its first tram-jam in modern times after an on-call ambulance parked on tram tracks causing tailbacks on a city centre street.

The short delay, caused by medical staff attending an emergency, has raised questions about what will happen in the event of a major incident on the line after many spectators thought the tram had broken down.

Tram bosses today insisted the city’s integrated transport network would cope – and said in the event of an emergency along the 8.7 mile route affected passengers would be directed to the nearest bus stop.

The first tram-jam to hit Edinburgh since the system was scrapped more than 50 years ago started when paramedics rushed to deal with an emergency involving an elderly woman just after 3pm on West Maitland Street on Monday.

Upon arrival, medics rushed from their vehicle, leaving it parked on a greenway – just as a tram pulled out of Shandwick Place.

The result was the first tram-related traffic jam involving the £776 million system, days after test runs of the track started during daylight hours.

Ambulance staff were only away from their vehicle for a few minutes to carry out an initial assessment of their patient.

But as trams and buses started to back up in the West End, many believed the tram had broken down.

Staff within Copymade grabbed a camera and snapped the scene, and proprietor Grant McKeeman said: “It didn’t take long did it? The first day of proper running during the day and it only took an ambulance to stop on tracks for 15 minutes for the buses to be backed up into the West End.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said: “This was a time-critical and potentially life-threatening situation and the absolute priority was to save a life. The ambulance crew moved the vehicle within a few minutes as soon as the initial patient assessment established that the immediate danger had passed.”

Tram bosses have indicated that in situations such as this risk to life comes first.

However, the incident does throw up questions in regards the eventuality of a city street featuring trams having to be closed in the event of a fire or motor accident.

Mr McKeeman said the problems caused by just a short delay showed how inflexible the system was, adding: “If only there was a low-cost way for the tram to move around obstacles like this? Perhaps by having wheels fitted and not being fixed to a tram line – like a bus perhaps.”

It is understood an emergency on the tram line would see passengers directed to the nearest bus stop, and Tom Norris, Edinburgh Trams director, said: “Transport for Edinburgh will run a fully integrated public transport service. If an emergency situation affects service, the Transport for Edinburgh network will cover the majority of situations.”

Transport convener Lesley Hinds revealed that when “feasible” emergency service dispatchers will notify tram controllers of possible blockages allowing the tram to be held while buses are requested to divert.

She added: “In situations like this where the emergency services are dealing with a critical incident where time is of the essence, there will inevitably be a knock-on effect on other traffic, including trams. In this instance, traffic was held up briefly to allow the ambulance to attend the emergency call.”

Many happy to be taken for a ride..

IT was a call to arms – 1000 volunteers were needed to help test the city’s tram system.

And citizens did not disappoint, with tram chiefs revealing they were deluged with e-mails from prospective “guinea pigs” volunteering to ride the tram and test the specially-designed stop Murrayfield created to help deal with crowds at major events.

More than 550 e-mails were received within just six hours yesterday with spaces fully expected to have been filled by close of play today.

Edinburgh Trams director Tom Norris revealed he had been sent more than 200 e-mails in just a few hours – among the volunteers was former Simple Minds manager Bruce Findlay.

The large-scale dummy-run – given the exotic codename Exercise Salvador (Spanish for “saviour”) – is set to take place on March 13, and the lucky volunteers set to take part will be e-mailed in the coming days.