the relative success of the tram launch is no cause for celebration – at least not yet.
The over-riding feeling at the City Chambers and tram HQ at Gogar will be one of relief rather than jubilation. Those in charge know only too well that there is still a long way to go before the new line proves its full worth to the Capital. Yet, it has got off to a pretty good start.
Yes, there have been teething problems with the traffic light system, but fine-tuning seems to have helped ease the hold-ups in the city centre. There have been gripes too about the lack of air conditioning – not often a problem in Edinburgh but one that might rear its head in the coming weeks – and the ‘ding ding’ of the tram bell being heard in some homes near the line.
But in general those who are using the service seem to be pretty pleased with it.
The trams are now established as part of the daily routine for thousands of commuters, making journeys to the Gyle and RBS headquarters at Gogarbun in particular much easier for many. They have also proved their worth for major events at Murrayfield Stadium after ferrying thousands of pop fans relatively smoothly to and from last month’s One Direction concert.
Crucially, the initial indications of passenger numbers are roughly in line with pre-launch predictions. The biggest worry was that not enough people would want to use the truncated line, leaving the city – and Lothian Buses in particular – with a financial millstone round their neck.
We can’t yet say those fears were unfounded. These are very early days – and it would be foolish to read too much into one month’s statistics – but we can take encouragement. Passenger numbers were always going to drop after the first flurry of excitement and then build again from a lower base. The real test is whether 90,000 passengers a week turns out to be that base line – and how quickly they build up from there.