THEY are the best of the best, the first in the city for almost 60 years, a crack troop 40 strong who beat hundreds of others to grab the honour of pulling on the tram drivers’ fleece.
From all corners and occupations they have been mined, former cooks, cleaners and mechanics – each has completed a full year’s training and is ready and primed for the biggest launch day the city has witnessed in modern times: Saturday, May 31.
Who are the people within this historic vanguard? Well, you have the military precision and attention to detail of a former army cook, the wheel skills of a former forklift truck driver plus the customer service skills of a one-time bus tour guide. Or Evelyn, Davis and Sam as they are known.
Evelyn Kiernan, 45, from Livingston, who spent nine years as a cook within the Royal Logistics Corps from 1989-1998, had been working as a prison custody officer, when she saw the advert for drivers.
She says: “I was looking for a new career and something different. I thought that Edinburgh trams offered a great opportunity to do that.
“It feels great telling people I’m a tram driver. People are really interested and they ask loads of questions. That’s one of the reasons that I love driving the tram through the city centre, people are always waving at you and giving you a thumbs-up, you also get so many different views of the city.”
Fellow driver Davis Paton, 31, from Longstone, was one of the first drivers hired in the first intake of just 12 back in January last year. More than 350 applied for the posts.
However, this isn’t his only tram-inspired claim to fame as he also, as we have already revealed, had the honour of being the first tram driver to register a baby in the city for half a century.
On the birth certificate of his one-year old son, Oscar, Davis, a former Tesco forklift truck driver, is officially labelled a “tramway car driver”, a job title that has not been used since trams stopped running in 1956.
“The council registrar was scratching her head. She asked me what my occupation was, so I told her, and she wasn’t sure what to put down,” says Davis. “She had to ring her boss, who wasn’t sure either, so she had to call the head office.”
Speaking about his new career, he adds: “It’s a real band of brothers. Everything and everyone is new so there is a real buzz and sense of togetherness.
“I love driving into the city. My mates will slag me for this, but there’s a spot in around by Murrayfield early in the morning when the sun rises behind the Castle and it just looks amazing.”
Each driver has undergone extensive training, it’s not just a case of moving a handle and letting the rails do the work – rail conditions, tram weight and gradients are just some of the many factors drivers must consider as they glide along the 8.7-mile route.
Sitting behind a reinforced plate glass door, they monitor banks of cameras to check traffic, and in the case of emergencies they can hit the “Big Red Button” – which brings the tram to a halt.
Each driver also operates under three levels of concentration – from green to amber and red – red is always to be adopted when in the city centre.
Evelyn says: “When you reach the city centre you must have your wits about you. It amazes me how many people just step out in front of a tram, they actually look and see you and then still step out.”
Davis agrees: “When you’re in the city centre you’re always on the edge of your seat, that’s why we all love getting to Haymarket because after that it’s really just a straight run out to the depot. Your shoulders relax and you sit back into your seat.”
Despite being the standard bearers for the new £776 million service in their Edinburgh Trams dark grey and red fleeces the drivers will have very little, if any, interaction with the paying public – this honour falls to an army of 52 inspectors known as ticketing services assistants (TSAs).
One of these is Sam Anderson, 25, from Leith, a Stirling University ecology and environment services graduate, who after finding no work after leaving university plumped for a role as a tour guide with Edinburgh Bus Tours.
“It’s a type of work I’m accustomed to, dealing with the paying public and tourists,” he said. “It’s exciting to be part of it. Most people you meet are really into the trams, you see people spotting the uniform and whispering on the bus or in Tesco. It’s the novelty of it.”
Keeping track: a day in the life of a tram driver
Each tram driver will work a range of eight-hour shifts as the service begins each day at 5am and ends at midnight.
On arrival at the depot, drivers are required to clock in and sign a declaration that they are fit to ride, with no drink or drugs in their system.
Each driver is also assigned a mobile phone as a back-up way to keep in contact with the depot in the event of a radio failure. Drivers then make their way to the duty board which lists the details of their shift – tram number, run number, tea breaks etc.
Only 12 out of the 27 trams in the fleet will be used each day and they are prepped and checked first thing in the morning by an assigned depot driver. For those that are taking over from someone else, they must make their way to the nearby restricted staff halt – a stop only accessed from the depot.