Extra trams planned to cope with packed carriages

Extra rush-hour trams are being considered in a bid to ease pressure on packed carriages. Picture: Greg Macvean
Extra rush-hour trams are being considered in a bid to ease pressure on packed carriages. Picture: Greg Macvean
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EXTRA rush-hour trams are being considered by transport chiefs to ease pressure on packed carriages.

Frequency may be stepped up after passenger growth outstripped expectations.

The city's trams have been extremely busy in recent weeks. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

The city's trams have been extremely busy in recent weeks. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Around five million journeys a year are being made on the Edinburgh Airport to city centre line, with traffic in June up five per cent on last year.

Speeding up journeys is also being examined, along with earlier trams from the airport and additional Sunday services.

The moves come as some commuters complained about enduring jammed peak-hour services.

One said: “It is standing room only, jammed against the doors, around rush hour westwards every single day, and the same at rush hour return at the end of the day.

“By the second stop in the morning, there are no seats. This existed way before the Festival, so it’s not tourism causing it – it’s basic demand.”

Trams run up to every eight minutes between 7am and 6.30pm, every ten minutes at other times and 12-15 minutes on Sundays.

The first city-bound tram leaves the Gyle shopping centre at 5am, but the first from the airport is not until 6.15am. Westbound services from York Place start at 5.30am.

Transport for Edinburgh, the body which runs Edinburgh Trams and Lothian Buses, signalled more frequent services were in the pipeline.

Chief executive Ian Craig said: “Whilst some rush hour trams have been extremely busy in recently weeks, we’re also seeing off-peak services filling up too, and we expect to be able to report some healthy passenger numbers soon.

“During these busy spells we do put extra trams into service. But what I’m keen to do, on top of that, is to look at how we can increase frequencies further to ensure our customers receive the best possible service, and to take full advantage of the opportunities for the business.”

A total of 4.9 million passengers were carried in the first year to the end of May – eight per cent above forecast.

Experts have welcomed more services but warned the city centre was already very congested during the rush hour – while the plans drew criticism from taxi chiefs.

Planning consultant Robert Drysdale said: “Higher frequencies make the tram service more attractive as well as increasing capacity, so a higher peak-hour 
frequency of trams is a very desirable aim for Edinburgh.

“Unfortunately the very high flows of buses and other traffic at the east end of Princes Street results in a build-up of congestion during peak periods, which blocks the passage of the tram.

“If the tram frequency was to be increased, these problems would simply become even greater.”

But Tony Kenmuir, director of Central Taxis, said: “The pinch points for the tram run are at Haymarket and the corner of South St Andrew Street and Princes Street.

“If the frequency of trams increases at peak times at those crucial pinch points, other traffic is bound to slow.

“If you’re unlucky enough to catch a light there as a tram ‘ding dings’, and just as it passes you hear a ‘ding ding’ coming in the other direction, you can miss several rotations of the lights and it feels like an ice age passes.

“I have a concern the council is not considering an increase in tram traffic because there has been a measured survey for unmet demand, but they have an immense amount of surplus rolling stock and they’re thinking they might as well stick it on the roads and see if it captures more passengers.”

Transport leader Lesley Hinds said: “We’re building up a clearer picture of demand all the time and will continue to work with Transport for Edinburgh to monitor and review the service to best fit the needs of our customers.”