Cyclist damages claims against Trams could cost Council millions, warn experts

TWO cyclists have won “landmark” damages claims in lead actions over Edinburgh’s tram system in the first batch of cases to come to court.

Friday, 28th June 2019, 5:20 pm
Two cyclists have won landmark damages claims after suffering injuries on the Capital's tram line.

Legal experts have urged city transport bosses to come to the table and talk to other victims of injuries on the Capital’s tram line or risk a damages claim running into millions of pounds after a judge ruled the authority were liable for accidents at two locations involving cyclists Elizabeth Fairley and Iain Lowdean.

The authority maintained that it fulfilled all duties of reasonable care and said it was “committed to improving cycle safety in the city”.

Both victims were injured while cycling across tram tracks in the city at busy thoroughfares in Haymarket and Princes Street.

Experts have warned the cases - which included one incident at Haymarket - could cost the Council millions in damages claims.

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Ms Fairley raised an action against Edinburgh Trams Ltd and the city council and Mr Lowdean sued Transport Initiatives Edinburgh and the council.

Damages in the claims were agreed but liability was contested, however, Lady Wolffe said the infrastructure posed “a relevant hazard” to the cyclists at a judgement in the court of session.She said: “There was no breach of duty on the part of either pursuer; they bore no responsibility in law for the accidents that befell them.”

“There have been numerous other accidents involving cyclists and the tram infrastructure. These two actions are the first of these claims to come to proof.”

Nurse Ms Fairley, 58, earlier told the court how she was thrown from her bike as she negotiated tram tracks in the city while returning home from her shift at the Sick Children’s Hospital in October 2013, a year after a similar incident involving Mr Lowdean, 35.

Ms Fairley initially sued for £50,000, but the court heard that the amount of damages to be paid if her claim succeeded was agreed. A similar agreement was reached in the second case involving Mr Lowdean, who sought damages of £15,000.

Stewart White, senior lawyer with Thompsons Solicitors, called on the council to do more to protect cyclists in the City Centre, adding: “This decision vindicates the years of concern expressed by cyclists over the appalling dangers posed by the tram lines.”

“It is now absolutely imperative that City of Edinburgh Council moves to make their tram lines safe for cyclists and settles the many other cases of people who have suffered terrible and in some cases life changing injuries.”

In May 2017, cyclist Zhi Min Soh was tragically killed following a collision with a tram in Shandwick Place.

A Council spokesman said: “We are aware of the court’s decision and will study the judgement in full.

“Cycle safety is of utmost importance to the Council and, since 2017, we have been working to deliver a phased programme of cycle safety improvements along the tram route.

"We have completed the initial phases and, as part of the City Centre Transformation programme, aim to ensure improvements are coordinated with broader changes to the way our city centre works."