Slow tram test flanked by 21 contractors

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ANYONE watching the first tram tests to Edinburgh Park yesterday would have been reminded of the old one-liner “how many people does it take to change a lightbulb?”

In the case of Edinburgh’s new trams, if the question was how many engineers does it take to test a tram then the answer was almost two dozen.

Tram testing will take place between the Gogar Depot and Edinburgh Park Station. 'Picture: Neil Hanna

Tram testing will take place between the Gogar Depot and Edinburgh Park Station. 'Picture: Neil Hanna

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The Evening News counted as many as 21 contractors walking alongside the tram as it inched slowly through the South Gyle Broadway tram stop towards its destination.

It was the first test of the light-rail vehicles along a three-mile stretch from the Gogar depot to Edinburgh Park. Testing will continue up until the launch of the full route from the airport to York Place by May next year.

Groups of engineers used the initial run to take detailed measurements of the distance between the slowly creeping tram and electric poles, signs and wiring, making sure no object could obstruct its path. Clearance levels along the line and at tram stops were also double checked and recorded.

The tram itself stopped repeatedly – sometimes for minutes at a time. Corners on the track were taken particularly slowly. The tram took about an hour to cover little more than a mile.

As the test took place City transport convener Cllr Lesley Hinds has warned people to be aware of the trams, and said they have right of way.

Rail enthusiast John Hampton, 69, was among bystanders who gathered to witness the trial for themselves.

A self-confessed tram fan, the Balerno mathematician explained the multiple stops were necessary to make sure the electrical equipment driving the vehicle did not overheat from travelling at unnaturally low speeds for a sustained period of time. He said: “There are all manner of mechanical and electrical issues to be resolved. You’ve got to be very careful to check all the clearances, to make sure that it’s the right distance from platforms.

“The whole system is incredibly complicated and of course a lot of the infrastructure is below ground, which you don’t see. This all has to get checked out before you introduce trams to traffic.”

Incorrect levels have already been a bane for the £776 million project, with contractors forced to rip up concrete along Shandwick Place after the stretch failed quality assurance tests. Yesterday’s test was similarly designed to find any other faults.

The speed of the trams, which can reach 45mph, is expected to rapidly increase across the rest of this week.

Motorists have been told to expect delays where the tram line crosses the road at Lochside Avenue and South Gyle Broadway.