The Power is soon to be switched on along the entire tram route

It’s over two years late – but the final phase in Edinburgh’s long-running tram saga is about to reach a climax. Trams have already been making test runs from Gogar to the Airport – but on the 19th of November, the switch on the overhead power lines to York Place will be turned on. For the first time, the wires above the whole eight-mile line will be live! The fact that busy sections of the route include Princess Street and Haymarket are being electrified marks another milestone in the £776 million project.

Cllr Lesley Hinds says that people should be aware of the risks
Cllr Lesley Hinds says that people should be aware of the risks
However, it’s led the city’s transport managers to issue ‘hazard zone’ warnings with letters being sent to hundreds of homes and businesses along the route. Given that each of the lines will carry 750 volts, there is a serious risk of burns or even death if people accidentally make contact with the lines. Indeed, an area within ten metres of any part of the line has been labelled a “tram hazard zone” and any work within the zones will be banned without written approval from the council.

The lines, about 18ft above the tracks, don’t a pose a threat to pedestrians, motorists and those living close to the tramway. But the council has warned traders especially those with windows at wire level to take care.

As Transport Convener Councillor Lesley Hinds explained, “anyone who lives in or owns a property near the tramway and needs to carry out work within a ten-metre vicinity of it needs to be aware of these important safety measures. We’ve been in contact with hundreds of residences and businesses along the route and we’re urging them to read the guidance and approach us to agree a safe way or working. In normal circumstances, the overhead wires are high up, out of the way and safe, but they can pose a danger if appropriate guidelines aren’t followed when working nearby.”

The electrification of the line comes shortly before widespread tram testing starts across the entire route. The initial testing is expected to take place mostly at night – but drivers and pedestrians are being warned to be particularly vigilant. This will involve up to 180 “ghost trams,” empty vehicles travelling along the full route for final driver training and to test out signalling.

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David Calder has been a broadcast journalist for over 30 years. Before moving to the Caledonian Mercury, he worked for the BBC (national and regional) as well as parts of ITV and the World Service. He worked for prestigious programmes such as The Money Programme, You & Yours, Today and The World at One. He spent two years making mini-documentaries for Radio 5 Live and was a regular correspondent for CBC (Radio Canada). He was a regular reporter on various news and current affairs programmes on BBC Scotland as well as producing or presenting (sometimes both) science, legal affairs and arts programmes. As well as his contributions to the Caledonian Mercury, he is also a freelance producer in Scotland for the satellite channel, Al Jazeera.