Trams emergency stop distance twice as long as bus

Tram and buses side by side in Princes Street. Picture: Julie Bull
Tram and buses side by side in Princes Street. Picture: Julie Bull
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EDINBURGH’S trams will take more than twice as long to stop in an emergency than the region’s buses, the News can reveal.

The stopping distance was revealed to tram drivers this week ahead of the start of vital daytime testing of the new service. The distances are part of driver training on how to share the roads with pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

Transport chiefs last night confirmed it takes a tram 91ft to stop on a street section of road doing 20mph, compared with 39ft for a bus.

One city bus driver said the discrepancy could spell the difference between life and death.

The driver, who is currently undertaking the awareness training, said: “When the differences in stopping distances were pointed out nobody could believe it. The instructor said there was a near 30 per cent difference in braking distance. People step out in front of buses all the time so what happens if we have a tram right behind us?

“During the Festival you have people regularly just wandering out into traffic.”

City PR man Ken Greig said the first shunt or casualty caused by a tram will be a “PR disaster” for the controversial £776 million project.

He said: “If you take an area such as Shandwick Place or Haymarket where already it is a problem to walk across the road, add trams into the question and you have a real problem.

“Inevitably the first real incident will become a major PR issue for tram bosses. I don’t think people will have expected the stopping distance for a tram to be as high as it is.”

Each tram comes equipped with a range of safety features such as headlights, a distinctive bell and emergency brakes.

When deployed, a tram’s emergency brakes can produce a noticeable burning smell as trams use brake sand which causes dust to collect under the chassis and burn upon braking.

Bill Campbell, Lothian Buses operations director, said it was crucial that his drivers received training telling them how to work with the trams, while also calling for increased public awareness of the safety risk.

He said: “This is a major change in Edinburgh’s road traffic so it’s essential that we brief our drivers on how the trams will operate. We will be running an integrated public transport service for Edinburgh and this is just one of the things we are doing to help that happen as smoothly as possible. Safety is the number one priority for us and this is at the heart of the training we are giving to all of our staff.”

Tom Norris, director and general manager of Edinburgh Trams, said the hi-tech vehicles were equipped with a range of safety measures.

He added: “Tram drivers are highly trained in hazard perception and to drive to the road conditions. Our trams are equipped with safety equipment and features that includes a magnetic brake, deployment of sand and an emergency stop button that assist the driver bringing the tram to a stop.”

The Evening News told earlier this week how the council has spent £10,000 on a series of public information films warning how to interact with the trams. Daylight testing is due to commence this week.


TRAM chiefs have been forced to undertake “snagging work” to replace stones worn down by the weight of traffic.

With trams soon to begin rolling through the city centre in daytime, numerous coping stones which sit beside the tracks have to be replaced in Shandwick Place and Princes Street.

The essential work got under way last weekend and will continue this week.

Tram bosses have been quick to stress that the works will have no effect on their plans for daytime testing later this week and that “snagging works” are covered within the £776 million tram budget.