Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Edinburgh trams running three-quarters empty

Edinburgh Tram Image copyright Ian Georgeson

Edinburgh's £776m tram network was running at an average of 25% capacity, newly released figures show.

Passenger numbers on the network almost doubled between 2014 and 2015 to 5.3 million, but the services have the potential to carry 21 million people per year.

Each tram has a capacity of 250 and the vehicles make a total of 85,000 journeys per year.

It means, on average, three-quarters of the space on the network was unfilled.

The trams were originally designed to run for 15 miles from Edinburgh Airport to Leith by 2011, at a cost of £375m.

But a truncated nine-mile service, stopping in the city centre, opened in 2014, at a cost of £776m - with interest charges expected to push the final bill to about £1bn.

'Disruptive and expensive'

A public inquiry has been set up to investigate the problems for the project, which went over budget and was completed five years later than planned with a reduced network, having caused major disruption for residents and visitors through years of works.

Scottish Conservative MSP for Lothian Miles Briggs said: "The one saving grace people in Edinburgh thought they could take from the trams was that they would be worth the wait eventually.

"However, with three-quarters of spaces unfilled every year, it seems even that consolation hasn't come to pass.

"This was a hideously disruptive and expensive project but, having been operational for a while, millions of spaces on these trams are going spare.

"Passengers are complaining that they continue to be slower than the bus, and some residents are so furious with the inconvenience they caused they refuse to get on them.

"It's clear there is still significant work to do to make this project a success, and I hope bosses use these numbers as a catalyst for doing exactly that."

Extra services

The figures were revealed by Edinburgh Trams finance manager Tom Neil in response to a freedom of information request, which said during peak times some trams "operate at 100% capacity" and enhanced provision has been made to cope with the demand.

An Edinburgh Trams spokesman said: "It's disappointing that the Conservatives have issued a figure that misrepresents both the success of the trams to date and how public transport in general operates.

"We've already had to introduce extra services at peak times and there will be good news early in the new year on further service improvements.

"Although a relatively recent form of transport for the city, the tram continues to go from strength to strength and is clearly proving its value for the people and economy of Edinburgh."

The firm said the figures were based on 2015 passenger levels and it expected 2016 to show a significant increase.

It highlighted that two-thirds of a capacity of a tram is standing, and based on available seats usage levels are about 80%.

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