Tom Norris: Safety priority for trams

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OVER the past couple of months or so, trams out on test runs have been an increasingly common sight during the night in Edinburgh’s city centre. Our team have been testing and training extremely hard and we’re now ready to move into a phase where many more trams start to run along the route.

Safety is our number one priority. Before driving trams on the streets, our highly-trained drivers go through a rigorous testing and assessment process, which includes assessing how they deal with emergencies, hazard perception and driving to the road conditions.

In the next few days, people will start to notice trams appearing in the city centre at earlier times during the day as we push on with our thorough testing and commissioning phase.

The testing phase will eventually see multiple tram test journeys along the full line over the week. There will be a gradual build up in tram movements which will allow everyone to get used to the new arrangements.

It’s a learning experience for everyone – tram drivers, pedestrians and road users alike. Our drivers are all fully aware that other road users need time to get used to the new trams.

Likewise, the drivers need to get used to manoeuvring the trams alongside varying levels of traffic and in different road conditions, to ensure we’re totally prepared when passenger services start running.

When not training and testing, the team have been focused on emergency exercises both internally and with the emergency services.

This is a critical and challenging part of our preparations, as we have a number of exercises to complete.

In January we tested our approach to a simulated security incident at Edinburgh airport and then, not long after, managed the tram test service during a real-life security incident.

We’ve practised emergency driver evacuations and a range of other scenarios to prepare the team for passenger service.

These exercises will allow us to provide a safe service for passengers and other road users when we go live and make sure we’re in the best possible position when faced with challenging situations.

A series of videos are now live as part of a multimedia tram safety campaign to help people get used to trams testing along the full route. These can be accessed via the Edinburgh Trams and City of Edinburgh Council websites, as well as via YouTube.

Our main message is that trams are big and quiet so give them space, look before you cross the road and listen for the bell.

• Tom Norris is director and general manager of Edinburgh Trams