Passenger services for the brand new Edinburgh Trams will get under way from 5am tomorrow (Saturday 31 May), marking the start of a new era for integrated public transport in Scotland's Capital.
Following several months of essential and rigorous testing, commissioning and training, from tomorrow the trams will become an key part of Edinburgh's transport mix, offering an efficient and sustainable link between the Airport and York Place in the city centre.
At the official launch today [Friday 30 May 2014], Edinburgh residents for whom the tram will become part of daily life were joined by Transport Convener Lesley Hinds, Transport Minister Keith Brown and key people involved in delivering the new service for a special tram trip to commemorate the occasion.
The tram travelled from York Place to Edinburgh Airport before returning to St Andrew Square, with various photocalls held along the route to highlight selected stops and some of the people who will use them.
For instance, Edinburgh Rugby player Sam Hidalgo-Clyne was joined by a rugby fan at the Murrayfield Stadium stop, while three airline staff boarded the tram at the Airport.
The trip also featured four members of a family who won an Evening News competition and two passengers who had travelled on the last ever tram in November 1956 - Norman Steven and Alastair Byres.
Transport Convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said:
Two years ago, I pledged to do everything in my power to ensure we brought this project in on the revised budget and revised schedule. It was never going to be straightforward, but with an incredible team effort and a focus on results, it now feels fantastic to be where we are today.
The tram project has been hugely challenging for the people of Edinburgh but now there seems to be a growing positivity in the city about the start of a brand new transport service. I know from firsthand experience how trams can transform and enhance a city and I am determined Edinburgh should make the very most of the opportunities ahead.
I hope that everyone who uses a tram in these first few days and weeks enjoys the experience. We'll be monitoring things very closely to make sure the system is peforming as best it can - these are the early days of a brand new transport system and it needs time to bed in.
As we've said, there are no current plans to look at extending the line and it would be inappropriate to do anything until we've had a chance to review the service's performance over the first six months or so. I've called for a report to be presented to Council before the end of 2014 so that future options can be debated.
Transport Minister Keith Brown said:
The people of Edinburgh and local businesses will be relieved to start seeing the real benefits of a modern tram system.
Although today is clouded by what happened in the early stages of the project, since being involved we have worked with the Council and the contractor to get it back on track.
The tram link will support employment and much improved local, national and international transport links. This will include connections to the airport, bus station and railways, such as the recently
refurbished Haymarket Station, and a new Edinburgh Gateway rail-tram interchange as part of the Scottish Government’s £742m Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvement Programme.
In the past week we've seen the launch of three new direct air routes from Edinburgh Airport. Visitors will be impressed by the tram option and there are signs that the project is starting to generate wider investment too. We wish Transport for Edinburgh and the Council well in making the project a success going forward.
Ian Craig, Chief Executive of Transport for Edinburgh, said:
Following many months of preparation for the new service, Transport for Edinburgh is now primed to play a central role in the future success of Edinburgh, moving residents and visitors to where they need to be on a dynamic and fully integrated transport system, utilising tram and bus.
The service launches today as the result of a huge effort from a team of dedicated people within Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams, working across the widest range of disciplines. I'm proud of what has been achieved but there's much more to be done. This is a brand new system and, as we start to welcome passengers on board, we'll be keeping a very close eye on the service to make sure our customers get the best possible experience.