Comment: Time for city to take tram money and run

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taxis do it, buses do it, even the rickshaws that come out each summer do it – so why not stick advertising on the side of trams?

Adverts are now part of the fabric of modern life, whether we like that or not. They need not be vulgar and tacky. In fact, the best ones these days make us laugh, cry and 
reminisce about favourite times.

A cleverly crafted advertising campaign could actually add positively to the experience of riding on Edinburgh’s trams.

But the bottom line, let’s face it, is that the trams are hardly in a position to turn away someone waving a cheque for £70,000. Or even a much smaller cheque for that matter.

No-one doubts that the trams will run at a loss when services start running in May – and they are expected to continue losing money for 15 years, once their full maintenance and repair costs are taken into account.

The council is confident it can cover the shortfall with the profits from Lothian Buses without damaging bus services.

Nevertheless, anything within reason that the trams can do to pay their own way has got to be a good thing. Every opportunity should be taken to wring extra cash out of any commercial opportunities. There should be ads inside and out, on tram stops and, yes, on the roof at the Gogar depot – a smart bit of thinking there.

That will have the double effect of keeping down the cost of travel for paying passengers and helping ensure that the trams do not soak up any more of Lothian Buses profits than absolutely necesssary. The council-owned bus company has tended to pay around £2 million to £3m a year to the council to help pay for other local services and those payments are likely to shrink substantially from May as a result of the trams.

A few hundred thousand pounds extra a year from tram advertising can do nothing but good. It is time for the trams to take the money and run.