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Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Blog 86 Edinburgh is Tram-endous

OK – if half a dozen newspapers haven’t used that one a. why not? b. they have unexpected levels of diffidence and self-control.

Ich bin ein Edinburger - most definitely now because I travelled on the new trams on operation day 1. Yes it was slow and crowded and Saturday was too hot and it messed up the buses but it was good to try the thing out.

Justifiably, it seems, there has been much grumbling and scepticism about the tram system.
But if you put to one side that the whole thing is three years late and horribly over budget it is still odd. Then ignore that the disruption put businesses out of business and caused strain on others during development. Even if you bypass the issue of the tram not going to the places it was feted to go to, it’s possible you are still missing the central nuttiness of this scheme.

Surely everyone gets that public projects of this kind attract dodgy financial intricacies. Companies bid at a level to get the contract and then behave as if they have a licence to print money. Thus has it ever been. What is surprising is that the public bodies commissioning the work haven’t worked that out yet and put, for example, rigorous penalty clauses in place or prosecuted companies for willfully misleading the contracting party. But something always seems to go weird with common sense when public money is involved.
Also timescales. Apart from the Olympics (which also had that escalating budget kookiness) how often does a contractor state that – such-and-such a job will be done on Monday 10th June and it’s all done by midnight on Sunday 9th??? I mean apart from NEVER.
And small businesses? When the local dignitaries get a sniff of a prestigious project with the sweet hum of ‘legacy’ and kudos and all that jazz, are they really going to be bothered if Mr sandwich shop or Miss boutique can’t pay the rental because no one can get to their door due to years of excavations? I think not.
No – what is really bizarre and truly strange about the tram system, the thing that leaves me goggle eyed and scratching my head, is that Edinburgh didn't need it.

Of all the places on the planet that had public transport sussed it seemed to me to be Edinburgh. And I should know. I lived in Northumberland for about a decade where the buses are shit and expensive and turn up when they well feel like it. Buses in Edinburgh are (were) absolutely bloody marvelous. There is that bus tracker system which is brill. In Northumberland you found out a bus wasn't coming when rigor-mortis set in. Edinburgh buses are cheap, reliable and clean; they go to everywhere you could possibly want to go and they are usually on time. It’s a veritable BUS HEAVEN.

Tomorrow – at The Persevere in Leith I hope to dust off an old performance poem about just how crap travelling by bus south of the border was. In a piece called ‘I’m a survivor’ – I will pay back-handed homage to the new trams and the lunacy of public transport mentality in what is (still) the UK.
So yes – I had a go on the tram. I can’t say it wasn't a pleasant, fun experience and novel. Everything was new and gleaming though it was slightly nerve-wracking going uphill. In fact, toiling uphill I felt the urge to get out and push! Then it was odd going slowly slowly down. And that bell! I got off at my stop, Balgreen, and it was all jolly pleasant. But what I still don’t get is...

This week’s recommended blog from the archives is;

Blog 38. I Did It!

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