Thursday 10th February 2022
Passengers using Edinburgh’s trams to travel into the city centre face a few weeks of inconvenience from today with the closure of track between West End through Princes Street and St Andrew Square to the (now, former) terminus at York Place.
It’s so that the track can be joined up at York Place on to the new extension to Newhaven which has been under construction since 2019 and is finally due to open next year. I presume the work includes the doubling of track on what is currently a single line section at the end of the route.
As the first crossover west of the York Place terminus is at West End, trams will temporarily terminate there until (I assume) modifications are made at St Andrew Square as it’s reported trams will be able to resume along Princes Street to turn at that point from April.
Tickets are valid for onward travel on Lothian’s buses and passengers “interchanging with National Rail services can also use their tram ticket between Haymarket and Edinburgh Waverley stations thanks to a partnership with ScotRail”.
York Place tram stop has actually breathed its last as when the line reopens next year the stop after St Andrew Square will be at Picardy Place located slightly east of York Place.
I took a look at how things were going last Friday afternoon and it was somewhat chaotic.
As snow-come-sleet was falling and the skies darkened traffic was backed up on Leith Walk with Lothian buses already on diversions due to the tram extension works significantly disrupted by the chaos.
I’d read that Lothian’s first four electric double deck buses delivered last June were allocated to route 10 so decided to walk to the nearest eastbound bus stop from York Place to wait for one.
After some distance the first bus stop I came to was in Annandale Street but was out of use with no indication how far the next one was and as it looked like a long walk on Google maps and the weather was getting worse the idea no longer appealed especially as all the westbound buses I’d seen on route 10 were older types as were others I interrogated on the company’s app.
I eventually made my way to Lothian’s impressive Travel Shop at the western end of Princes Street and enquired on what route the sparkly new electric buses could be found. The member of staff looked puzzled at being asked such an unusual question and had to seek assistance returning after some time to advise she thought they might be on route 23.
I should have asked where I could catch a route 23 but didn’t and after wandering around looking for green liveried buses I gave up.
I’d had much better luck earlier on Friday morning in Dundee sampling McGills’ owned Xplore Dundee’s recently acquired fleet of 12 BYD ADL Enviro400EV electric double deckers.
The company’s high profile launch publicity and media blitz back in December had promoted their presence on cross city route 28 and it was easy to find the city centre mid route point, Albert Square, and take a ride.
Once again it’s a Best Impressions triumph (and I don’t just say that because Ray Stenning is a great friend and the most passionate public transport advocate you’ll ever find, but) because the buses really do stand out as something special.
Inside the seats have been given a smart grey moquette with green dots …
… and are comfortable to sit in with adequate leg room.
But, like the same buses I recently reviewed on TfL’s route 63, the flaws include the rear seating layout …
…. and the somewhat upright seat between the driver and the stairs.
Both points acknowledged by McGills’ on the ball CEO, Ralph Roberts, in a recent social media post and hopefully therefore something manufacturers will take note of.
On the positive side there’s that nice wide rear window on the upper deck…
… the stairs look good with their featured green piping lighting and glass panel …
… and there are usb sockets in the seat backs.
The arrangement for the wheelchair space on the nearside offers flexibility to include space for buggies …
… and there’s a smaller space for a buggy on the offside.
Sadly we’re back to only having four level access ‘proper’ seats (aside from the three tip ups in the wheelchair/buggy areas) and next stop displays and announcements were noticeable by their absence – either that or I failed to notice them.
I’d intended to do some bus hopping along the route but I noticed during my eastbound journey towards the terminal loop at Douglas the bus tracking function on Xplore Dundee’s website was only showing eight buses on the road instead of a scheduled ten and with a long gap behind us, looking rather lonely at the eastern end of the route.
Bus stop departure signs were later showing an even 12 minute interval as scheduled so I wasn’t sure which to believe. As I didn’t fancy a 24 minute wait I stayed put and enjoyed a ride up and down the route on the same bus.
It gave me an opportunity to keep an eye on the front seat on the lower deck which I’m beginning to obsess over as to whether it’s for one or two passengers and noticed at one point it did accommodate two but only because it was clearly a good friend who joined the one already there during the journey.
Passenger loadings were quiet to average for a mid Friday morning with most opting to stay downstairs rather than venture to the upper deck.
The new buses along with charging infrastructure at the depot has seen an investment of £7 million, with some grant funding from the Scottish Government. McGills are certainly demonstrating they mean business with their acquisition of Xplore Dundee from National Express last year.
And that’s definitely good news.
Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu.
Next blog, Saturday 12th February 2022: C is for Carlisle.