Electrifying travels in Edinburgh and Dundee

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.

The crossover at West End

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.

Long queues on a snowy Leith Road

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.

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu.

Next blog, Saturday 12th February 2022: C is for Carlisle.

12 thoughts on “Electrifying travels in Edinburgh and Dundee

Add yours

  1. Roger – I’m sorry that you found Edinburgh such a shambles when you visited recently. You were only visiting; I live there, and can see many months of disruption ahead. Buses with very few bus lanes are not much use, and I suspect that we are going to be walking a lot during the summer.

    Do get in touch if you should visit again, as I could make sure that you can see what you came to see, and help you get some of the street names correct in your post.


  2. I hate to comment, but I know you are a perfectionist – I think you mean the wheelchair space on the nearside, rather than the offside on the Xplore Dundee bus.


  3. The UK’s First Hybrid Train

    If they work well it can be a solution for the minor branch limes where it is to expensive to justify electrify a line with only an hourly service. Weight might be a problem though on some of the minor branch lines

    Chiltern Railways will introduce the train on its 40-mile route between London Marylebone and Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, from today if all goes well

    The UK’s first 100mph battery-diesel hybrid train is entering passenger service to cut carbon emissions and boost air quality.

    It was developed by adding a powerful battery to a 20-year-old diesel train to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 25%, according to owner Porterbrook.

    The firm added that the two-carriage train, named HybridFLEX, also provides a 75% decrease in noise and a 70% decrease in nitrogen oxide.


  4. It’s interesting that Lothian Buses have rediverted east bound services back to York Place after diverting them away due to severe traffic congestion. I can’t see the removal/demolition of the tram stop assisting this move.
    The electric buses have been allocated to service 23 for some time. This crosses Princes Street at The Mound/Hannover Street junction.


  5. Bus services face ‘crisis’ as government support comes to an end

    At present there is no indication of any further Covid support for buses and the current funding is due to expire at the end of March

    In Rural counties as may as tw thirds of the current routes could be at risk

    Bus services could be facing a crisis in a few weeks as government support introduced during Covid lockdowns is removed.

    The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union has urged the government to convene an urgent summit to tackle the crisis in the bus industry.

    It said bus operators are warning that almost one in three services in England could be cut within weeks as a result of emergency funds running out.


  6. Usual high standard of quality writing on buses, Roger. But I can’t let one thing go. You say ‘I don’t just say that because Ray Stenning is a great friend and the most passionate public transport advocate you’ll ever find”. Why did Ray and his Best Impressions completely ignore emails and tweets sent to him about the Great British Bus Survey last year. A passionate advocate would surely be interested in the views of passengers and bus people, especially those on the design and appearance of buses. No response at all from him.


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