Tram-a-la-ma-ding-ding, they’re coming soon…maybe

A blog about the trams? Sure, why not?

Somewhere back in 19-oatcake, trams were mentioned as an option to provide a link from Edinburgh city centre to the Airport and out to Leith and other places.  It was all part of the glorious notion that Edinburgh wanted, need and could provide trams!

Not so.  The council wanted compulsory purchasing of gardens and land along the routes they intended to run these tram lines, not suspecting for one minute that the people who owned these gardens might actually fight them.  That there might be no appetite for the trams and that all the sensible heads were saying that it would be MUCH CHEAPER to run a rail line out to the airport from an existing line and it would cause less hassle.

No though, the council (or TIE or whatever) carried on, trams are progressive.  Apparently.  They’ll bring the city into the 21st century.  They’ll make us modern like European cities (you know those cities with all the history, some of it ancient).  Basically the council carried on until they got their own way and we were getting trams whether we liked it or not.

I sat at a consultation meeting about these trams.  Lots of locals packed into the school gym hall.  We listened to Eric Milligan basically tell us that it was happening whether we liked it or not and that it was much better if we just let them get on with it.  Let them take our land, let them build their glorious trams, sod the cost!

Well, they misjudged the people in the area in which I live.  Take our back gardens will you? I think not.  Basically they wanted to take a huge back garden at Fox Manor (we might not be blessed with big houses but we do have big gardens) and turn it into the size of a postage stamp.  Some people would literally have looked out of their back window straight onto a tram line because of the position of their houses.  No way.  The locals mobilised, we held meetings, petitioned and basically said “no”.  After months of the threat of losing our gardens and starting to fear we were going to lose the fight, the council said they could build without taking our gardens.  The route would use land that was free and would only require the compulsory purchase of a tiny wee shop that, by that stage, only seemed to be getting used to sell Christmas trees.  At Christmas, naturally.

Slightly seething that this option was there all along but still we had to fight the fight, we accepted this though.  Gardens saved.  So, get on and build your bloody trams.

Should have been that easy yet, no.  Work started in 2007 and 48 years later still we wait…

OK, maybe not that long but it is 2013.  Testing has only just begun on the tiny part of the original route that has survived.  Yes, the route was revised from route(s) which meant that an original line to the Royal Infirmary at Little France was dropped.  The route that survived, Ocean Terminal to the Airport was seriously revised to run only from York Place to the Airport and, at one stage, they thought it might only run from York Place to Haymarket train station, making it no more than a toy railway.  “Thankfully” it will run out to the Airport.  It initially was meant to have a loop through Granton, West Pilton and back to Roseburn.

The Original Route
The Original Route

Estimated time for trams to start running now, summer 2014 (not 2011 as previously touted).  The length of the route 8.5 miles.  Cost “estimated” at £776 million.  This is a revised budget.  In 2003 the budget was set to be £375 million.

27  trams will service this 8.5 miles stopped at 16 stations along the route.  Taxpayers, as well as having to pay to use the service, will have to pay for the whole debacle happening.  They can travel 43mph off street, be thankful for that if you work at the Gyle where the trams cross pavements and roads.

From now until they actually start carrying paying passengers next summer, residents and tourists alike will be teased by their presence along the route as the lines are tested and drivers are trained.  Then, finally, if someone doesn’t fall out with someone else or some scandal doesn’t engulf the whole affair, we might actually have trams in Edinburgh.  Despite only getting rid of them in 1956 because they were no longer viable.

Meanwhile, at Gogar the trams wait patiently until they are called into action.  For the tourists who will use this, and the small amount of Edinburgh residents who live along the tram route and may actually use this, it can’t come too soon.

Trams waiting patiently at Gogar (Kim Traynor)
Trams waiting patiently at Gogar (Kim Traynor)

Toot, toot! Not long now.  Maybe…

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