Anger at Edinburgh trams ticket plans

Tram tickets will cost the same as bus tickets. Pic Neil Hanna
Tram tickets will cost the same as bus tickets. Pic Neil Hanna
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PENSIONERS across the Lothians are being “hard done by”, it was claimed today, after it was revealed only those living in Edinburgh will be allowed to travel on trams for free.

Seniors and disabled people from outside the city boundaries will be forced to pay the full fare on the network, with a single journey costing £1.50.

• Comment: ‘There must be a better way to do it’

Passengers will be able to use the same day ticket on trams and buses under council chiefs’ ambitions to create a “fully integrated” transport system across the Capital.

But blocking OAPs in Mid, East and West Lothian from free travel has been branded “unfair”, particularly after bus services have been reduced.

Independent Musselburgh councillor John Caldwell said: “This is totally unfair, not just the people of East Lothian but the people of Midlothian are getting hard done by here, too.

“People from East Lothian and Midlothian travel into the city and this is not a fair system. Scottish Government money was given to the trams project so there should be a bit more equality for OAPs and the disabled especially.

“We’re actually in a lose-lose situation here as we will have a reduced bus service and also no concessionary travel.”

Holders of Scottish National Entitlement Cards issued in Edinburgh to those aged over 60 or who are disabled will be able to enter their card details into ticket machines to get free travel.

The move will cost the council an estimated £200,000 in the line’s first year of operation, with the Scottish Government refusing to foot the bill.

City transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds defended only offering free travel to OAPs who are Capital residents, insisting: “My responsibility is to the people of Edinburgh.”

Eight trams will run per hour during peak times along the £776 million route when it goes live next year. An exact launch date is due to be revealed next month.

Passengers travelling beyond the Gogar tram depot as far as Edinburgh Airport will have to pay a yet-to-be-determined supplement.

Each stop will be served every seven-and-a-half minutes from Monday to Friday during peak hours. That frequency will fall to every ten minutes during non-peak times and at weekends. Services will operate from 5am until midnight.

Passengers using Ridacards would have to validate them at tram stop platforms before boarding.

A total of 52 ticket inspectors – known as “revenue protection officers” – will be employed along the tram line.

Journeys from York Place to the airport are expected to take 33 minutes, with trams waiting at each stop for around 25 seconds. The aim is for there to always be a tram waiting at the airport.

Cllr Hinds hailed the “integrated” nature of the travel network, and said it would come as a major boost to passengers.

She said: “Instead of having a day ticket for the bus and a separate one for the trams, you will get a day ticket which works for both modes of travel. You will then have Ridacards, which you will be able to use on the trams as well.

“There will be a difference in the fare if you go from the airport past a certain point, but that’s yet to be finalised. If you’re going from the airport to York Place or Princes Street, there will be a supplement. That’s the same as you’ve got at the moment with the airport buses. You pay more than if you get a bus in the city centre.

“But we are looking to have the fare at the moment as £1.50 in the central city. That’s the commitment I’ve given.”

A new umbrella body – expected to be called Transport for Edinburgh – will be formed to run tram and bus services under plans to go before next week’s full council meeting.

It will be made up of four existing executives at Lothian Buses, including chief Ian Craig, as well as several non-executive directors and four elected councillors.

The goal of creating an integrated transport system has been inspired by networks in London and Manchester.

Tory councillor Joanna Mowat, who sits on the city’s transport committee, welcomed plans for fares and


She said: “I don’t think you can increase regularity without getting into difficulties with queues and blockages. On the fare, it’s the same as the bus fare, which is very welcome.”

She added: “TopCo [Transport for Edinburgh] won’t do everything initially, but hopefully in time it will mirror the integrated ticketing, which will be important. We may have to limit expectations because Transport for London have a very different legislative framework to that in which TopCo will operate.

“Transport for London can do all sorts of things that will be much more difficult or impossible for TopCo which won’t necessarily have the power to operate in the same way as Transport for London.”

One tram expert said Edinburgh’s plans generally mirrored other UK networks.

Professor Lewis Lesley, technical director of light rail company Trampower, said: “Manchester, Nottingham, Croydon and Birmingham all have six trams an hour, so it tallies up with those. Pricing is different because trams operate differently in each city, so it’s difficult to have a direct comparison.

“Lothian Buses operate a flat fare, a single fare, for whatever length of the trip, whereas other systems adjust theirs depending on length of trip. £1.50 is the same as the buses and it seems eminently sensible.”

£13.7m bill down the line

ANNUAL operating and maintenance costs to run the tram line are expected to hit about £13.7 million.

A report produced by engineering consultants Atkins said £7.4m of those yearly costs would come directly from the operation of Transport for Edinburgh – the new company that will run the trams and bus network.

Of those costs:

• 15.9 per cent will be spent on drivers

• 13.9 per cent on revenue protection officers

• 18 per cent on energy

• 26 per cent on management, legal, accounting, human resources and administration

• 26.2 per cent for all other costs, including supplies, insurance and business rates

The council’s financial model has forecast a total profit of £3.7m over the first 15 years of the line’s operation. That estimate has been based on operators achieving £228m in revenue from passengers.

Maintenance and refurbishment costs have been estimated at £87m.

Operators will be ‘new and fresh’

A NEW company run by 11 members will be created to operate the integrated network.

The organisation, Transport for Edinburgh, will include the four highest-paid executives from Lothian Buses – chief executive Ian Craig, operations director Bill Campbell, engineering director Bill Devlin and finance director Norman Strachan.

Four elected councillors – two from the administration and two from opposition parties – will be appointed to the body as non-executive directors.

Three other non-executive directors with “suitable transport experience” will complete the board, which will be chaired by Councillor Lesley Hinds.

Transport for Edinburgh will eventually be responsible for introducing cycling and walking routes into the network, but will concentrate solely on trams and buses in the first year.

Cllr Hinds promised the operational body would not be based out of new “expensive headquarters”, insisting it would run from Lothian Buses’ HQ or the City Chambers.

She said Transport for Edinburgh would not just rebrand old ideas, but be “new and fresh” and ultimately responsible for putting in place the council’s wider transport vision.