£776m trams stopped by balloons on power cable

It only took a few balloons to bring the �776 tram line to its knees. Picture: Montage
It only took a few balloons to bring the �776 tram line to its knees. Picture: Montage
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THE Capital’s tram line was cut short after bosses were forced to kill the power over safety fears – when balloons became tangled in the overhead wires.

The network was curtailed for almost two hours with passengers only able to travel between Murrayfield Stadium and Edinburgh Airport as a 2.3-mile stretch was shut down.

Tram chiefs were worried the five balloons, which drifted into the 750-volt power lines, would damage carriages’ pantographs – the devices which connect power from the overhead line to the tram itself.

A spokeswoman for Transport for Edinburgh was not able to confirm whether balloon interference was one of several “disaster scenarios” planned for before the system went live in May.

Trams were brought to a halt between Murrayfield and the city centre just after 3pm yesterday after the balloons were spotted outside the McDonald’s restaurant in St Andrew Square.

Operators were forced to shut off the power until contractors arrived to remove the balloons.

Passengers were told they could use their tram tickets to board Lothian Buses services to complete their journeys.

But that didn’t impress all of those affected, including Andy Connelly-Nimmo, who tweeted: “I’m no tram expert, but surely balloons getting caught in overhead cables shouldn’t lead to them being offline for close to two hours!”

Another frustrated passenger tweeted: “The trams have stopped because of balloons on the line! #clowns #edinburgh.”

The Transport for Edinburgh spokeswoman said: “There was a group of five balloons which became entangled in overhead wires.

“It was the string that was causing the problem because there was a concern it could have caused damage to the pantograph, which is an extremely important piece of equipment.

“If it had wrapped itself around that, it could have caused real damage. That’s why we took the decision to shut down the line between Murrayfield and the city centre. As a precaution we decided to isolate power and remove it to ensure there was no damage caused to the pantograph. The line was shut for between one-and-a-half and two hours.

“These are still the early days of a new service and as such we decided to use caution in our approach.

“We have been accepting tram tickets on our bus network until the full route can be re-instated.”

Tory transport spokeswoman Joanna Mowat said that this was first time she had heard of a tram system being brought to its knees by balloons.

But she added: “I think we have to be realistic. It’s a new system and safety has to come first.

“As it becomes more familiar, I think it’s not going to be such a big issue.

“All these things sound a bit like ‘the wrong kind of leaves on the line’, but at the end of the day we have to have caution in the first days of a new system, until everyone learns exactly what the parameters are.”