Edinburgh trams: Simulator gives taste of new line connecting Leith and Newhaven to city centre

New drivers who will operate trams to Newhaven when the line opens next year are already in training, thanks to a state-of-the art, custom-built simulator.
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The new recruits are using a full-size replica cab unit at Edinburgh Trams’ Gogar tram depot to experience the five kilometres of new track and eight stops connecting Leith and Newhaven to the city centre, as well as the existing route from Edinburgh Airport to St Andrew Square, complete with lifelike imagery and landmarks along the route.

And the simulator helps the trainees increase their hazard awareness with inbuilt scenarios involving trouble spots and complex interactions with signals, traffic, pedestrians and other trams.

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More than 60 new drivers and staff members are being recruited ready for the completion of the £207 million tram extension, which is due to begin passenger operations in spring 2023. The council says all major construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2022 ahead of a testing and commissioning period.

Transport convener Scott Arthur said: “It’s a matter of months before trams will begin testing on the new route, and the progress made so far is clear to see. While major construction work is almost complete, it’s fantastic that new recruits can already get a glimpse of the route and hone their skills thanks to the brand new simulator.

"The whole team at Edinburgh Trams do a fantastic job, and I look forward to working with them in the coming months to take passengers all the way to Newhaven in spring 2023.

“As we mark Scotland’s Climate Week the case for reliable, sustainable public transport is more important than ever. Trams to Newhaven is on target to deliver a low-carbon, high-capacity and clean mode of transport to the north of the city, creating a vibrant multi-modal transport corridor through the heart of Leith.”

The simulator shows the driver's eye view of Princes Street.The simulator shows the driver's eye view of Princes Street.
The simulator shows the driver's eye view of Princes Street.
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Edinburgh Trams managing director Lea Harrison said: “As we look forward to the launch of services to Newhaven, we’ve been working behind the scenes to invest in our future by making our training programme more comprehensive, efficient, and environmentally friendly.

“The new simulator delivers a wide range of benefits to our colleagues, our organisation, and ultimately our customers as it enables us to create actual traffic situations as well as realistic effects for weather and light conditions.”

Simulator technology lets trainers record and stop, freeze or replay scenarios to highlight learning points at an early stage, helping increase driver competency quickly. Once tram testing begins, drivers will carry out blended training between virtual and real-life tram driving, helping to reinforce safe driving practices.

Grant Penman, who recently started as a trainee driver, said: “Driving on the simulator has helped me improve my concentration skills in a safe environment, while further learning about signals, speed limits, and any other distractions that could be thrown your way.

“It’s been great working with the Training Team and benefiting from their expert knowledge and experience. The simulator feels lifelike as if you are actually on the track with a tram.”