2014-05-31 11:02:23 UTC
service today, Saturday 31 May 2014.
I was one of an *entire trams-worth* of people who made their way to the
Gyle Centre tram stop (thank you, nearby passing Airlink bus service)
for the 05:00 first service to the city centre. There were so many people
present that I think that at least a few unfortunately could not get on
and had to wait for the next tram. (I arrived around 04:30, thinking
that would be plenty of time, expecting maybe 50 people to be there, and
had to join a long queue for the ticket machines!)
While there were undoubtedly more than quite a few train fans amongst the
passengers, turnout was not entirely $nerdy_male_trainspotter_stereotype,
with a wide variety of ages of both men and women, and also including a
number of family groups with enthusiastic children.
There was a huge cheer as the first tram arrived from the depot (a not
in service tram passed through just before I arrived at the tram stop),
and quite a party atmosphere once we were on board. The tram was
absolutely crush-loaded, but thanks to wide aisles and vestibules not
quite as cramped as a similarly busy bus would have been. There is
good provision of grab poles for standing passengers (also helps to
balance your camera for photographs.. ;-) ).
Some people had made hand-drawn posters welcoming the trams, which were
popular with press photographers and TV crews. In particular, somebody
had made a "Take me to Leith" poster as a reminder that the route is
only half-finished at best. Hopefully we will see action in the not too
distant future to complete the planned route to Leith/Newhaven (one of
the most densely-populated areas of the city, and one of low car ownership
and strong demand for public transport (not just 'distress purchase')).
With the utility moving works already done and the trams and rails
already purchased, hopefully track-laying, overheads erection and tram
stop construction would be relatively easily done (once the remaining
part of the project reached that stage and the disputes with contractors
came to an end, construction progress did speed up *noticeably*).
Unfortunately, there are only relatively few places where the trams can
reach anywhere near the route's 70 km/h top speed (some non-continuous
sections alongside the railway, through Edinburgh Park, some sections
between the depot and the airport), but the acceleration away from tram
stops does help to save time.
Certainly the tram is considerably faster than the comparable stopping
bus services (eg #22) (remember that the airport isn't really the
destination as such, it just happens to be one of many places on the
route of a line serving *multiple* trip generators (but not so many
high-density population areas, oops) - there was _supposed_ to also
be a fast rail link to the airport).
There are a surprising number of very tight bends and wiggles on the
route, even in non-built-up areas, where speed has to drop to 30 km/h
(20 mi/h) or below, including an excruciating 10 km/h curve between the
A8 underpass and the site of the future Edinburgh Gateway tram stop,
all of which give the line a bit of a 'fairground ride' feel in places.
While the locations of most sharp bends are adjacent to stops, where
trams will be slowing anyway, I can't help but feel that slightly
less-tight curves (where surroundings would have allowed it) would have
allowed a faster approach to stops and could have shaved off at least a
couple of minutes' journey time over the full length of the route. Even
the relatively straight bridge over the railway at Stenhouse seems to
require quite a substantial slowing down (in the middle of an otherwise
I timed the trip back into the city from the airport as a slightly
underwhelming 38 minutes, even with traffic lights and tram signals
on-street turning in our favour as we approached (non-stop along
Princes Street (apart from the tram stop) is a very novel experience!).
It'll be interesting to see how usage fares over the coming weeks once
everybody gets their initial joyride out of the way over the course of
the weekend. As I've said before, I have no doubt that the tramline will
be a huge time-saver and capacity boost for workers at Edinburgh Park,
Gyle, Gogarburn, etc, helped with interchange at Edinburgh Park station
(and Edinburgh Gateway to come).
The on-street section between Haymarket and York Place is considerably
faster than travelling by bus, so that may also be of help to people
passing *through* the city centre (or travelling close to a tram stop).
Edinburgh residents will know that at peak times it can sometimes just
about be faster to walk the length of Princes Street than remain on a
bus stuck in an endless queue of other buses. Festivals/holiday season
will be a particularly interesting test as to what difference the tram
will make there (the tram won't be held up by tourists asking route
or fare questions or fumbling for change, which can easily waste several
minutes at each bus stop!).
But really, it still needs to go to Leith (and the southside). Bus #49
is the new 22 as regards peak loading problems (huge demand for
north-south journeys, but most buses from Leith/London Road go along
Princes Street, and then a poor 49 turns up at just the right time to
change buses for the Bridges axis..) and indeed is about to be switched
to double-deckers to help ease capacity problems.
For me personally, I think the tram might give "Murrayfield" Sainsbury's
and the Gyle Centre the slight travel time edge over Cameron Toll or
the other edge-town shopping centres (alas poor Ocean Terminal which
was supposed to benefit from the trams as well).
On that note, this is possibly likely to be one of my last usenet posts.
I've been pretty much in write-only mode of late, I don't really have
sufficient spare time for usenet any more, it doesn't lend itself well
to reading from different computers (assuming you even have a decent
usenet client on each), and although some groups (notably uk.railway)
are still healthy, it seems that very very few new people are finding
and using usenet nowadays. I think I probably therefore have no choice
but to go where other people are tending to hang out nowadays. I have
a horrible feeling that nowadays that's increasingly the ad-infested
spyware cesspits of Failbook and Tw*tter, but if there are any good
railway/transport and Scotland/Edinburgh  forums out there
(suggestions welcome), maybe that's where I have to head off to..?
 citycyclingedinburgh is probably as good a start as any. I don't
really want to have to follow multiple forums (at least usenet is "all
in one place"), but.. :-(
Things are certainly improving railway-wise from when I first started on
usenet. With ever-increasing electrification in Scotland and ongoing
service improvements (Cumbernauld recently electrified and
(re)integrated into the North Clyde line with increased service
frequency; new through services between Ayr, Glasgow and Edinburgh (via
Carstairs); the Waverley route rebuilding continuing..), the situation
for rail and other public transport is a lot better nowadays than it was
back in the 1980s.. :-)
All the best to everybody I've chatted with on usenet over the years.. :-)
I may perhaps still continue to post occasionally, but probably no longer
Ding-ding and away..