Passenger numbers rise
Tram use rises ahead of crucial vote on extending service
Trams are a familiar site on Princes Street and could go further (pic: Terry Murden DB Media Services)
Tram passenger numbers in Edinburgh rose by about 10%, according to the latest figures available, bringing the total to 7.3 million and giving support to plans for an extension of the service.
The rise in passengers has been attributed to extra trams running at peak times, with some services running every three minutes.
Edinburgh Trams’s latest annual accounts show it made a pre-tax profit of £1.61m in 2017 compared to just £252,000 the previous year.
The operator will take on the cost of maintenance and infrastructure this year, with an £8.5m annual fee payable to the council for use of the trams, track and the tram depot.
Lea Harrison, managing director at Edinburgh Trams, said: “The additional responsibilities given to us as maintainer are recognition of our efforts and the council’s belief in our abilities to make cost savings for the city.”
Transport for Edinburgh chief executive George Lowder said the transfer of responsibilities showed “Edinburgh Trams has come of age”, adding that it “has proven itself for a fourth year as an integral part of the Transport for Edinburgh Group and the backbone of the integrated Edinburgh mobility network”.
Edinburgh councillors will vote in March on a proposal to take the tram to Leith. It estimates that expansion could almost double the number of passengers using trams, with a predicted 14 million users in its first year.
Lesley Macinnes, transport convener for Edinburgh Council and chairman of Transport for Edinburgh, said: “We’re nearly five years on from the launch of tram passenger services and the figures speak for themselves – every year, more and more people in the capital are discovering the benefits of Edinburgh Trams’ award-winning service.
“It’s a reflection of how well Edinburgh Trams is performing as a company that we feel they are now ready to take on the responsibility for maintenance costs – as was always the plan when the current arrangements were agreed.
“Their continued growth in passenger numbers, improved service frequency and excellent customer service point to their readiness for this transfer of responsibility.”
“These next few months are vital to our development of Edinburgh’s public transport provision as our city continues to grow. Council officers are refining the Trams to Newhaven final business case ahead of a decision by elected members in March.”
Vice transport convener Karen Doran added: “These figures are extremely encouraging, particularly as we’re just a matter of weeks away now from making the final decision on taking trams to Newhaven.
“The continued reliability, positive customer approval and growing passenger numbers achieved by Edinburgh Trams on the existing route will be a key consideration as councillors evaluate the final business case.”
After a long delay because of a dispute with the construction firm, trams were reintroduced in Edinburgh in 2014, 50 years after the tracks were ripped up.
The service was originally meant to be made up of several routes, but was limited to the current 8 mile singl route between the airport and city centre.