Tram subsidy bill cut as numbers exceed forecast

The tram service has performed better than expected. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA

The tram service has performed better than expected. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA

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HIGHER than forecast passenger numbers have cut the cost of running Edinburgh’s trams for the city’s council tax payers, its accounts for 2014 show.

The system, which cost £776 million to build, required one quarter less subsidy than expected from the city council in its first seven months of operation.

The trams lost £449,000 rather than the forecast £600,000. Revenue was some three per cent above projections, at £6.4m.

The council expects the Edinburgh Airport-city centre line to take three years to make a profit.

It has already revealed 4.92 million passengers used the trams in their first year to the end of May – 370,000, or eight per cent, above target.

It is understood that since then the figures have increased on last year, and were up by 4.5 per cent over the last four weeks.

The council has agreed to loan the trams up to £3m over their first five years of operation.

Council transport convener Lesley Hinds said: “Everyone across the [Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams umbrella body] Transport for Edinburgh [TfE] group is to be congratulated for delivering a hugely successful operation over 2014.

TfE chief executive Ian Craig said: “Edinburgh Trams can boast impressive passenger numbers and strong financial performance when compared against the business model.

“We are especially pleased with how reliable and efficient the trams have proved to be, and that they are so highly rated by our passengers.”

He said research by watchdog Transport Focus showed TfE’s buses and trams had among the highest levels of customer satisfaction among UK operators, of some 95 per cent.

Earlier this year, figures revealed more passengers than ever before used Edinburgh’s public transport services in 2014 with a total number of 121 million passengers travelling on the city’s trams and buses.

The figures showed that Lothian buses reached a record-breaking number of 118 million passengers, with three million more people using the service than the previous year.

Tram usage also proved to be much higher than originally expected, with a total of 4.92 million passengers using them in their first operating year – 370,000 more than targeted.

Ian Craig, chief executive of TfE, said: “Transport for Edinburgh has achieved much in its first year and alongside successful performance at Lothian Buses, Edinburgh Trams can boast impressive passenger numbers and strong financial performance when compared against the business model. Last year Lothian Buses initiatives were rolled out to incorporate trams.”