Back to the UK for this visit, I was up in Edinburgh a few weeks ago and opted to take the tram from the airport into the city. I wanted to see how ease it would be to connect up a journey from plane to tram to train, to reach the wider region: does Edinburgh Trams offer an attractive airrail experience that would attract users out of their cars?
I knew that I wanted to take the tram so that was the first thing I was looking for when I came into the terminal, I was surprised at the heavy promotion given to the bus on the advertising and signs. This was more apparent when I followed the sign out of the terminal and came immediately upon the Airlink bus stop and ticket booth.
The tram is much further away from the arrivals area than the bus and the sign directs a passenger out of the terminal and through a drafty walkway down a few hundred metres to the more isolated tram stop.
I was only when I got to the tram stop that I realised that I could have walked inside most of the way but this is only apparent if you ignore the signs.
In the video below, I’ve recorded the route from the second arrivals area so that it’s obvious quite how many of those attractive buses you pass hoping to find a tram somewhere. Transport for Edinburgh must really want to shift air passengers onto these buses.
What is also strange is that the long walk is covered the entire way until just before the tram stop, where it stops for no reason in order for passengers to get rained on for 20 metres before reaching the covered tram stop -weather protection is only as useful as its weakest part.
From a distance, the tram stop has very little to identify that it is actually the tram stop. Thankfully there is a pretend tram under the main shelter (the real trams are behind this tram-shaped information centre).
I was disappointed to see that the flashy new tram stop doesn’t provide full shelter from the weather either, there’s a metal covering but it’s too narrow to cover passengers boarding and alighting the tram so, again, they are forced to get rained on. Given that it rains on average 124 days a year in Edinburgh these small gaps will compromise the experience for a lot of people.
As I passed through the tram stop, I saw this route map for the tram, showing the Airlink bus route too. It appears that they both go straight to the city centre so perhaps it’s just luck which one you take. I saw no information on which was recommended for reaching the central train stations, though the tram is the only one that passes the nearby Edinburgh Park station.
It’s 10 stops into the city centre so I had time to look out the window as the intermediate stops. The main thing I noticed was the size of the directions on the system: Edinburgh Trams does a good job of making information and directions obvious.
The first city centre station was Haymarket, where the tram stops immediately outside. The departure board inside the main station gave the feeling that that some integration had been considered, though there was no covered walkway out to the tram outside. The ends of the tram shelters did have big pink signs telling a passenger which side went where.
Whereas Haymarket appears to be more of a commuter station, the main, central station is Edinburgh Waverley where most long distance and Intercity trains terminate. Unfortunately, interchange is the last thing these two separate facilities provide.
The display on the tram said, “Next stop, St Andrew Square. Change here for onward rail connections“: so I did.
I was then almost abandoned on at the tramstop. This was no major interchange and I stood and looked both ways wondering where the train station was. I was expecting to see one of the big arrows I’d seen on other stops but instead I spotted the tiny little picture on the information board but it didn’t really help as it wasn’t orientated to any direction.
As it was, one way looked more interesting so I walked that way, towards the old town up on the hill. The video below shows the route I took. It was not clear or obvious where to go. There was no wayfinding along the way and passengers are expected to stand on a street corner and just search out for a train station – which in my case was almost continually obscured by buses.
Quite how someone unfamiliar with the city is supposed to make this interchange with any confidence is not clear and it reminds me of the issue I found at Nice where the tram was nowhere near the station. It’s shame in Edinburgh as the tram does pass closer to the station but no tram stop was provided at the closest point.
Within the station, it was also noticeable that only some of the signs referred to the tram.
For reference, here’s the route back to the tram from the station. Showing there’s no signs the other way either.
My advice for anyone using Edinburgh Trams is to change through Haymarket and take a National Rail train into Waverley, you won’t get lost and you’ll avoid the aimless walk through the city centre. Though I was looking to take the tram, those Airlink buses popped up every time I looked onto a street!
The fact that the tram stops look like they were built with high quality materials makes the system feel comfortable to use. I think it’s a shame that the stops don’t provide a more insulated environment, something as basic as weather protection should have been provided and the strange gaps don’t signal an integrated approach to the passenger journey.
Within the system, I felt that Edinburgh Trams had very good signage and well through through information but as is usually the case, integration with the surrounding area was the main problem.
To leave on a positive note, every member of staff I interacted with on the system was extremely friendly, it’s a encouraging that customer service is clearly a priority.
Author: Liam Henderson