TRAM services were left crippled by a power failure for seven hours yesterday in the longest stoppage to the line since its launch.
A power outage caused trams in the city centre to grind to a halt – costing Transport for Edinburgh up to £10,000 in lost revenue – with services only running between Edinburgh Airport and Murrayfield for much of the day.
Carriages stopped dead at around 9.45am after smoke was seen billowing from an Edinburgh Trams substation in the West End following an electrical fire.
Engineers scrambled to replace damaged equipment just ahead of the evening rush hour, with services only restored just before 5pm.
At the height of the disruption, four trams were left stranded on city streets without power for several hours, with transport experts questioning the lack of back-up power supplies.
Four fire crews were called to Atholl Crescent yesterday morning, but the fire had already been extinguished.
A spokesman for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said: “We were called to a report of smoke that had been seen coming from an electrical substation at Atholl Crescent.
“We believe it was the property of the Edinburgh Trams. There was no fire so we stood by to make things safe.” The fault came on the eve of today’s sell-out rugby international at Murrayfield, with more than 67,000 fans expected to converge on west Edinburgh to watch Scotland take on New Zealand.
Visitors arriving at Edinburgh Airport were advised to use the No 100 Airlink bus service to get into the city centre, although officials there did not report any disruption.
It is thought Edinburgh Trams carries an average of 12,850 passengers per day. Tickets cost £1.50 for a single journey.
Edinburgh planning and transport expert Robert Drysdale questioned why a fall-back power supply for the tram network did not kick in.
He said: “I have not heard of such a breakdown on other similar systems such as Sheffield or Nottingham.
“You would have thought there might be an alternative substation they could switch to. Relying on just one source of power surprises me.”
But he added: “At least they managed to get them back running in time for the peak rush at around 5pm.
“I was on the tram recently at around 5.30pm and it was chock-a-block so they are doing quite a big trade at that time. A catastrophic breakdown like today would not have been good news.”
The tram service has suffered a series of disruptions since it was launched at the end of May this year. West Maitland Street has become a blackspot for collisions between trams and other vehicles, with three bumps so far with road vehicles causing minor damage.
A spokeswoman for Transport for Edinburgh said: “We apologise for the disruption and inconvenience caused.”