EDINBURGH’s trams are set to be turned into giant adverts, earning city chiefs anything up to £1.5 million a year, it was revealed today.
A bold marketing campaign will transform carriages and platforms into promotional vehicles, while naming rights for individual tram cars and stations may also be sold.
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Even the Gogar tram depot roof could be offered up to sponsors keen to exploit Edinburgh’s busy flight path. Council chiefs insisted that “everything is on the table” as the city moves to make money after spending £776 million on the delayed project.
Cash-spinning measures to be weighed up include corporate sponsorship of trams and tram stops, wrap-around livery for tram cars, as well as internal advertising on seating and carriage panels.
It means there could be a Virgin Media St Andrew Square, a Marmite Express or even an Irn-Bru Haymarket stop.
Today, transport experts claimed the city should reap an annual income of between £500,000 and £1.5m from advertising alone.
A long-term business forecast for the trams predicts the network will generate around £15m per year in passenger fares alone.
Council leader Andrew Burns said all cash accrued from network advertising would be ploughed back into Transport for Edinburgh (TfE) coffers to help maintain the city’s fleet of trams and buses.
He added “significant sums” could be made from advertising “without degrading the integrity of the branding”.
Speaking to the News, he said: “It’s a big fleet so there’s lots of infrastructure and lots of potential there.
“I would hope the vast majority of the Edinburgh population would be supportive of this because we’re not talking about undermining the integrity of the TfE logo and branding which is now common across trams and buses.
“But we are talking about trying to get revenue out of advertising on the outside and inside of trams and at tram stops.
“I think most people will understand that is a rational approach to take. It’s no different to Lothian Buses trying to maximise revenue from their fleet.”
Tram sponsorship – or naming rights – is understood to be the dominant marketing strategy on Manchester’s Metrolink.
Asked if there could be a Virgin Media tram, Cllr Burns said: “It will be a commercial arrangement and that would be absolutely feasible.”
He added: “It’s a moving feast and won’t be set in tablets of stone but we have to get legal parameters right before passengers services to maximise income for taxpayers.”
Details of the advertising strategy emerged in an updated council report set to be debated at City Chambers next Thursday. Marketing gurus from Edinburgh Airport will be seconded to help the tram team tap into foreign advertising streams – such as Turkish Airlines or Qatar Airways – which are thought to be lucrative.
However, TfE chiefs will ultimately broker deals and determine the terms of advertising contracts.
Tram expert Professor Lewis Lesley, technical director of Lancashire-based light rail company Trampower, said a successful advertising campaign on Edinburgh’s trams could expect to rake in an additional ten per cent of operating revenues per year – the equivalent of £1.5m.
Metrolink, a more extensive network, secured around £500,000 in advertising during 2010, according to an annual report.
Prof Lesley said: “When Manchester Metrolink first opened, they looked at the option of all-over advertising or dedicated sponsorship for different trams and concluded sponsored trams were the better solution and more lucrative.
“Like the old locomotives, you would have a name on the tram like ‘The Virgin Runaway’ on the front.
“Although you get income from all-over advertising there are also a lot of costs involved in putting it on and taking it off which you don’t get with sponsorship.
“Based on European experience, if they get ten per cent additional revenue a year from advertising they will be doing very well.”
Investigations by the Evening News found that wrap-around advertising for an entire tram car would cost a client around £70,000 per year. Another tram expert, who declined to be identified, said wrapping a two-car tram could cost up to £15,000 but explained that a major advertiser could pay “anywhere between £25,000 and £50,000 per month upwards depending on the route, passengers carried, the visibility to the public”.
In Edinburgh, large colour promotions on the back of Lothian Buses – dubbed “mega rears” – cost advertisers £16,000 for a double-decker and £7000 for a single deck.
Powers to negotiate corporate packages with advertisers have been delegated to chief executive of Edinburgh City Council Sue Bruce and transport convener Lesley Hinds, with time running out before the go-live deadline in May.
The fresh tram report indicates the project will be concluded within its revised budget but must be signed off by an independent health and safety expert before it can allow fare-paying passengers to board.
It is understood there has been a “constant dialogue” with the officer – registered with the government – who has raised no concerns about rubber-stamping the “independent competent person’s certificate” necessary for the network to launch.
Edinburgh’s tram fleet contains 27 vehicles and their services will be rotated to prevent wear and tear.
Between 11 and 13 trams will be operating along the line at any one time.
FREE wifi will be available on Edinburgh’s trams as part of the Connected Capital project. Already a popular feature on some Lothian Buses, tram passengers will enjoy free browsing after £2 million of funding was secured from Broadband Delivery UK. Lothian Buses will also assist the move by providing “ongoing revenue support”.
Clampdown at Ingliston park and ride
WORK to secure the new Ingliston park and ride facility ahead of the tram launch date is heating up as it emerged unauthorised or “fly” parking is rife among airport passengers.
A barrier system is to be introduced to deter motorists from using the plot as a cheaper option than the car park at Edinburgh Airport.
Commuters using the tram or bus service will be able to park for free while those travelling to the airport would pay a car park supplement to “cover the cost of parking and a small charge for the tram ride to the airport”.
Drivers opting to only use the car park and not public transport would pay full commercial car park rates. Management controls to segregate vehicles and drivers travelling to the city and those wishing to day park will be installed at the 1085-bay facility.
Council leader Andrew Burns said new technology was being drafted in to protect the park and ride from being flooded with airport passengers.
He said: “It is a temptation now and is going to become even more of a temptation when you have a tram. You will be able to get a tram from the park and ride to the airport and also into the town. We have got to make sure we have got all that right. There’s technology available that can help control it but we have to nail down the final details.”
All-weather link at airport
A TUNNEL to shield passengers from bad weather will be created between the tram terminal and the entrance to Edinburgh Airport, it has been revealed.
The lightweight “canopy” will be lit up and act as a shelter for passengers but also a reference point for visitors to “readily locate the tram stop”.
It will help link the tram terminal to the new airport extension building that was developed in 2013. It is understood the cost of construction is contained within the £776 million revised budget set by transport chiefs.
Sue Bruce, chief executive of Edinburgh City Council, will be given the final say on designs for the canopy on delegated authority with little more than eight weeks before the trams go live.
Andrew Burns said: “There needs to be a bit more of a welcome there at the reception or arrival point at the terminal at Edinburgh Airport.”