Saturday, 24 November 2018

Tram tips for Edinburgh

Edinburgh's tram network resembles Warsaw's Metro system prior to March 2015 - just one single line. It is a boon to tourists arriving at Edinburgh Airport, whisking them into the city centre without being bogged down in the heavy traffic of the A8 Corstorphine Road. The modern stock is comfortable, has free (and fast) wi-fi, and as befits a line serving an airport, plenty of luggage space.

Below: the tram terminus at Edinburgh Airport. Trams to town every seven minutes (every ten minutes in the early morning and evening).

However, there are points to be aware of, especially when using the tram for the first time. The fare structure is designed to ensure that tourists pay more their fair share for using the system, in effect subsidising local users. Nothing wrong with that, but if you travel light as I do, and want to save money, heed my tip. There are but two zones in Edinburgh's tram network. The Airport Zone - and the rest of the line. A ticket from the airport into town costs £6.00. The next stop - Ingliston P&R - is less than a mile away (1.4km or 1,750 paces/15 minutes walk). And from Ingliston P&R, the ticket costs not £6.00 but £1.70 - a saving of £4.30.

BUT! There is a catch... If you want to pay cash, the ticket machines will not give you change. Drop a £2 coin in, and you've lost 30p of your £4.30 saving. And if you want to pay by card, there's a minimum payment of £3.00. So here you lose £1.30 of your £4.30 saving. Unless you buy a return ticket (£3.20) or an all-day ticket (£4.00). Now, given that the all-day ticket including the Airport zone costs £8.50, that's an even greater bargain.

Below: alight at Ingliston P&R and take a walk from there to the airport to get some exercise and save money.

Below: the in-scale map displayed at the airport terminus puts the whole network into perspective.

Below: Gogarburn, the next stop after Ingliston P&R, alight here for Royal Bank of Scotland's HQ. One advantage of trams and light railways over the main line is that the track radii can be short to accommodate tight curves, as seen here. The curve here is so tight I couldn't fit the whole thing into one shot even with a 10mm lens, so a panorama had to be stitched together (and hence two trams within a short distance of one another - actually the same tram).

I have another tip. You cannot buy your ticket on the tram; you can buy from ticket machines which are located at each tram stop. Remember to have the exact fare - no change. And be ready to select the ticket you need in advance - no time for umming and ahhing when there's a queue of people behind you and the next tram's due any minute.

The problem I had this year and indeed last year is that the touch-sensitive screens are not very sensitive. You touch and nothing happens. The tram conductor on the tram I (finally) caught - after missing one because I couldn't buy a ticket in time - told be to be hit the screen hard with my finger. Which I did the next two times I was buying tram tickets. Two sharp jabs - one to hit the '+' button by your choice of ticket, and one for the 'confirm' button. Contactless car payment doesn't confirm immediately - you have to wait a couple of seconds before you get the message that your ticket(s) are being printed.

All in all, the system is clunky and no longer state-of-the-art. For that, visit Wrocław. The trams there have the simplest system of all; no cash, no tickets, only card payments - the virtual 'ticket' stored in the chip of your credit/debit card, which you present to the ticket inspector.

Without doubt the best way from the Edinburgh Airport to the city centre is the tram; my tips will save you money and spare you frustration at the ticket machine!

This time last year:
Warsaw to Edinburgh made easier
[tram price fare rise since last year: 10p for city zone, 50p for airport zone!]

This time three years ago:Stuffocation: the rich-world problem of dealing with too many things

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