A SAFETY crackdown inspired by a cult television comedy has been launched with the aim of preventing tram-related road deaths.
Using the hashtag #carefulnow, safety messaging is being stepped up ahead of tram testing going seven days a week on April 7.
Tram bosses hope the catchphrase, from an episode of Channel 4’s Father Ted, will take off on Twitter, helping them get their message out while generating a feelgood factor.
The ramped-up safety campaign follows tram driver reports city residents are stepping out between buses to try and cross in front of trams, or making a dash across tramlines instead of waiting for the green man.
Aside from Twitter and Facebook, the #carefulnow drive will include more signs and updated messages to schools, universities and colleges, businesses and community councils, highlighting the existing safety advice and videos.
City transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “Trams have become a much more common sight in the city centre over the last few weeks, which has given us all a chance to get used to sharing the roads with this new mode of transport.
“From Monday, we’ll see many more trams out testing, right the way through the week and over the weekend as well. It’s a good time to remind everyone how they can keep safe when walking, cycling or driving near trams.”
Tom Norris, Edinburgh Trams director and general manager, said drivers have been adjusting well to traffic – but hopes #carefulnow will push pedestrians to think twice before stepping on to the road.
He said: “Testing and training have been going really well and it’s good to see that most people are interacting sensibly with the trams.
“Our drivers are driving very carefully to cope with the unpredictable behaviour of some road users, however, it’s vital that everyone heeds the warning bell and that people don’t gamble rather than wait for the green man. As we get ready to start testing seven days a week at a much greater frequency, we want to see the #carefulnow messages shared as widely as possible.”
The push on safety advice coincides with Edinburgh Trams inviting seven-year-old Chapman Whitefield Mathers on a tram trip to congratulate him on winning his school’s Tram Safety Competition.
Chapman’s animated tram safety film, which is available to view on the Evening News website, scooped top prize at Flora Stevenson’s Primary School, where he is in primary three.
The budding animator and sister, Emmeline, five, dad, Ian Mathers, mum, Diahann Whitefield and grandmother, Aileen Ferrigam, all had a ride on a tram on Monday afternoon.
He said: “I’ve been really excited about getting to ride on a tram .
“Trams are great because they’re eco friendly and I like the way they go really fast when you’re going to the airport.”
In regards to tram safety and his video, he added: “It’s important to know how to be safe near trams. You have to walk safely. And don’t wear headphones.”
Dad Ian, 50, said: “Chapman’s been beside himself with excitement about the tram trip all weekend. He’s been a tram fan since he was one – we used to bring him in his pram to the construction site at the West End because he liked chatting to the workmen.”
Alongside the beefed-up safety campaign, the city council has also issued a renewed warning to drivers that they risk having their vehicle towed if they park irresponsibly and obstruct the trams.
A tow truck is now on standby to respond swiftly to any incidents and vehicle owners can face a £180 charge to recover their vehicle if it’s towed away.
In addition, parking attendants are patrolling hotspots along the on-street tram route, including South St Andrew Street, West Maitland Street and Haymarket Yards. Already, two vehicles have been towed, one from West Maitland Street and one from York Place.
Cllr Hinds added: “We have to ensure trams can run smoothly and with testing stepping up a gear soon, this is even more crucial now.
“Park responsibly and there won’t be an issue. Park irresponsibly and you’ll risk incurring a £180 charge to get your vehicle back.”
The phrase “careful now” is from an episode of Father Ted where Fr Ted Crilly and sidekick Dougal protest against a blasphemous film. The News revealed earlier this year trams take 91ft to stop doing 20mph – twice the distance of a bus.