One year ago this weekend, it wasn’t without a sense of nervousness that we boarded the first operating tram in Edinburgh, making history as we launched the service again after almost 60 years.
But our nerves soon dissolved when the crowds piled on for their first tram trip, full of enthusiasm and excitement.
Twelve months later and the enthusiasm hasn’t faded. This has been a pivotal year for transport in Edinburgh, and I can only say how proud I am of Edinburgh Trams and the team of staff who have helped make it happen.
When I became transport convener in 2012 I made it my aim to deliver the trams on the revised budget and schedule, which was always going to be a challenge, but now I think we are seeing the fruits of our labour.
Thanks to a fantastic team effort, we have not only brought the tram to the city, but are now surpassing passenger and revenue targets.
Just the other day I took a ride on the tram at around 8 in the morning and was delighted to see it packed with commuters – standing room only – travelling to Gogar, Edinburgh Park, the airport. But to hear that almost five million people have used the service since its launch really brings home the impact it’s having on the city – that’s almost the same population as Scotland.
And the passengers are enjoying their journey too, demonstrated by a 95 per cent overall customer satisfaction rating which puts Edinburgh Trams right at the top of the tree when compared with UK public transport operators.
Now it’s time to focus on the future of Edinburgh Trams. There’s no denying how difficult the delivery of the project was for the people of Edinburgh, but one year on from its launch we are really beginning to see its benefits.
By looking to other cities like Manchester and Dublin, we have seen the incredibly positive effect a tram system can have on an area’s reputation and economy – this is what I want for Edinburgh.
Bringing together flights, rail travel, trams, buses, walking and cycling as part of a cohesive offer makes it so much easier for people to work, relax, shop and spend money in the city.
And with a growing population as well as healthy visitor numbers, it is essential that we provide Edinburgh with first-rate, accessible transport options.
As challenging as it was, taking Edinburgh Trams through its construction phase, getting it completed and operating the service successfully has demonstrated a commitment to improved transport links in the Capital, which is essential to creating a thriving world-class city.
As we look to its future we are considering a long-term plan which will continue to improve transport links to the city centre, provide a welcome boost to the local economy and, most importantly, serve visitors and residents.
- Councillor Lesley Hinds is transport convener at Edinburgh City Council