Posted: 30 June 2010 | Richard Jeffrey, Chief Executive, tie (Transport Initiatives Edinburgh) | No comments yet

Construction of a 21st century transport solution for Scotland’s capital is now underway. The city’s largest thoroughfare and busiest shopping destination, Princes Street, has tramtracks laid, 46,575 metres of pipes, ducts and cables have been diverted from the route and significant work is progressing in the West of the city with off-street works from Haymarket to Edinburgh Airport.

Construction of a 21st century transport solution for Scotland’s capital is now underway. The city’s largest thoroughfare and busiest shopping destination, Princes Street, has tramtracks laid, 46,575 metres of pipes, ducts and cables have been diverted from the route and significant work is progressing in the West of the city with off-street works from Haymarket to Edinburgh Airport.

Construction of a 21st century transport solution for Scotland’s capital is now underway. The city’s largest thoroughfare and busiest shopping destination, Princes Street, has tramtracks laid, 46,575 metres of pipes, ducts and cables have been diverted from the route and significant work is progressing in the West of the city with off-street works from Haymarket to Edinburgh Airport.

The first tram in the fleet of 27 has arrived in the city and now sits proudly at the tram stop on Princes Street as a popular visitor exhibit. In fact, in its first week on display more than 12,000 thousand people passed through its doors. It is currently the most visited ‘attraction’ in the city. The depot at Gogar which will house the trams will soon be ready to receive additional vehicles as they are delivered by the manufacturer.

On-street works are currently behind schedule because of a well-publicised con – tractual dispute with one member of the construction consortium. However, Edinburgh Trams remains confident that the full route can still be delivered within 2012 and we are rigorously pursuing the contractor to deliver within the terms of their contract.

We may not be where we hoped in terms of progress at this stage, but the reality of a modern, integrated public transport scheme for Edinburgh grows ever nearer and I, along with my incredibly capable team, remain committed to the delivery of the project in 2012.

Works to date

Utility diversions

MUDFA, or the Multiple Utilities Diversion Framework Agreement is not a topic which immediately inspires huge public interest, but it is a project which will support the city for centuries to come. It began as an essential programme of works to divert utilities away from the tramway, allowing for smooth operations in future and seizing an opportunity to radically improve the quality of underground utilities along the route. Ironically, this apparently mundane-sounding project led to the uncovering of a whole tranche of archaeological discoveries under the city’s streets.

The programme of works has now seen 46,575 metres of utility cables, pipes and ducts diverted away from the tram route and is almost complete. This staggering figure is over 70% more than the anticipated 27,188 metres that was planned for in the original scope of the project. Part of the reason for the increase was previously poor record keeping which meant we had no real idea of the scale of works until we dug up the city’s streets.

As I have already indicated, the additional complication was the wealth of archaeological finds uncovered under the city’s historic streets. These finds include over 300 medieval burials in Leith dating back to 1480, remains of the previous cable-drawn tram network, a medieval village at Gogar and human remains from a previously lost Carmelite Friary dating back to the 1590s. The archaeological team has properly documented these findings which have inevitably contributed to a delay in the schedule, however the programme is now almost complete and the work to date ‘future-proofs’ the tram route and surrounding areas against major utility works for the next generation.

Princes Street, Edinburgh’s busiest shopping street is at the heart of the Edinburgh Tram route. The City Council took the unusual decision to close the street entirely in February 2009 to allow both utilities and track works to be undertaken at one pass. They also allowed the lifting of a seasonal city centre roadworks embargo during Edinburgh’s busy festival season in August to ensure works could progress as quickly as possible. Project staff and contractors worked around the clock, in the coldest weather conditions for 30 years, to ensure that the street was re-opened before the busy Christmas trading period, essential to the city’s retailers.

In addition, Edinburgh Trams supported the retailers by participating in ‘Edinburgh Sparkles’, the first city-wide festive marketing campaign, aimed at attracting shoppers back into town after the works.

Strong customer services, clear communication and effective logistics planning were as integral to success as the engineering work itself in completing the ambitious programme of work. It was essential that the city was open and accessible, particularly during the Edinburgh Festival. To this end, we worked closely with the festivals on a project which included putting imagery on some of the city centre windows, using our fencing to provide legal advertising space to discourage fly-posting and jointly distributing thousands of festival maps designed to help visitors get around the city. This relationship with the festivals continues to develop.

Off-street works

The Tram Depot at Gogar to the West of the city will be completed later this year. This will form the base for operators, maintenance staff and our state-of-the-art tram fleet. Until the full route is ready, it will also be used to test the trams.

As the finishing touches are made to the depot’s external cladding, the focus naturally turns to developing the vital internal features which will facilitate the day-to-day operational tasks of maintaining the tram fleet. The depot floor has undergone preparation works for the general plant equipment while inspection pits are already established. Later this summer will see the arrival and installation of more specialist pieces of kit such as the tram wash, wheel lathe and sanding machinery. The depot is already attracting many visitors, particularly engineering students.

The Edinburgh Park Viaduct, which will lift the tramway over the busy East-West railway line, was a significant engineering challenge; working above an active railway on one of Scotland’s busiest commuter routes. Work is progressing well, with preparations for track laying underway. The viaduct is now a landmark visible from trains entering and leaving the city.

The guided busway at the west of Edinburgh was designed with the coming tram system in mind and tracks are now being fitted to convert it to tramline. Work is progressing well with the outer loop now complete with 1,400m of track laid while the inner loop is already over 950m and scheduled for completion soon.

At Carricknowe, the bridge over the railway has all steelwork complete and the concrete deck is about to be poured, while over 50,000m3 of material has already been moved between Carricknowe and Balgreen to level the ground in preparation for track laying. The main sections of the bridge were raised into position by cranes in the dead of night to avoid disruption to the busy rail line below.

At Gogarburn, the bridge structure is nearing completion and track works will begin shortly.

Behind the scenes

Contractual dispute

The original infrastructure construction or INFRACO contract for Edinburgh Trams was signed on 14 May 2008. The contract with Spanish Tram manufacturer CAF (Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles,) German Engineering firm Siemens and Bilfinger Berger is to deliver the vehicles, trackform, infrastructure and structures for the project.

Since February 2009, there has been a dispute which has affected the project. In very basic terms the main crux of the dispute is time and money. One partner in the consortium, Bilfinger Berger, have indicated that they require an additional 30 months (on top of the 38 months agreed at the start of the project) to complete works. One of the main reasons for this claim is the additional time required to complete utility diversion works. While we agree that the enormity of this task has indeed led to delays, we believe that 30 months is unreasonable. We have offered the contractor an additional nine months but they have yet to accept this offer.

Additionally, the contract which all parties signed up to stated that there would be ‘normal design development’ during the course of the project. The dispute is over whether the design amendments made would be expected within the course of the project and as such are ‘normal’ or additional changes. We have conceded several points to this but believe many of the claims are without merit and are challenging the contractor. We have to be very clear that this project is funded by public money and we must be accountable for every penny we spend. The management team at Edinburgh Trams, backed by the City of Edinburgh Council, will continue to refute any claims where we do not see merit and we are pursuing the terms of the contract rigorously.

Preparing for operations

Tram vehicles

Production of the 27-strong fleet of Edinburgh Trams has made remarkable progress since work began in 2008. Eight vehicles have been fully completed by manufacturer CAF, in line with the project schedule, with a further 17 currently in various stages of production in the factory in Irun, Spain.

The bespoke vehicle design combines a range of modern features and components which are completely unique to Edinburgh’s tram fleet. The use of new positioning and detection technology has been integrated with innovative traction and braking systems in order to ensure Edinburgh’s trams remain on the cutting edge of design. The challenges posed to CAF by this unique design makes the timely delivery all the more remarkable, and places them at the forefront of future tram vehicle design and construction.

Once complete, the vehicles are sent to the Siemens track at Wildenrath, Western Germany to undergo an eight week programme of rigorous testing. This includes a gruelling series of dynamic braking and traction tests. Lines are made slick to simulate the most extreme conditions while traction and braking are tested with first one and then two of the tram’s three traction packages disabled to simulate equipment failure. The trams are tested at speeds of up to 70km/h.

Tests are carried out on vertical and horizontal curves, with the vehicle empty and then again with the vehicle loaded with metal weights to simulate loading to crush capacity. The resounding success of this taxing programme proves that these state-of-the-art vehicles can perform safely and effectively in conditions beyond any foreseeable requirements of Edinburgh’s system. It is a testament both to the thoroughness of the test centre and the quality of the vehicle being delivered for Scotland’s capital city.

The first vehicle has now arrived in Edinburgh and is on public display at the tram stop in Princes Street. It has proven to be a popular attraction for people in the city with over 12,000 visitors in the first week alone. So far, feedback has been over 90% positive with members of the public excited to see the finished project, impressed by the quality of the finish and the sheer scale of the 43m-long vehicle. The tram isn’t just attractive to adults; many schools are booking visits so that children can get used to the trams which will play such an important part in the way they get around the city in future.

Preparing for integration

Working with Lothian Buses

This year has also seen the establishment of Edinburgh Trams Limited, the operational company that will manage the running of the trams. Preparations are being made to build the team, including the recruitment of tram drivers, inspectors and maintenance crews and training plans and procedures are currently being established to ensure that the estimated 240 staff required are ready to serve passengers once trams are up-and-running.

A key part of preparations is the impending integration with Lothian Buses. The company, which is almost wholly owned by the city council, is well established and is one of the most revered bus services in the UK, having won Bus Operator of the year four times. The tram system will integrate with Lothian Buses services.

Already there is a joint customer service and communications group incorporating trams and buses, setting standards for passenger care, levels of customer support and how processes will work together, for example, whether there should be one central control room for both buses and trams. There has also been extensive work with colleagues in the Council’s planning and design teams to co-ordinate and trial the branding of the route, including the tramstops and shelters, route artwork and community involvement.

Moving forward

Edinburgh Trams will provide an essential component of the city’s transport solution for the future. They will reduce congestion, help keep vital bus services flowing well in the capital, reduce emissions and shorten journey times. The trams will connect people with jobs and businesses with customers across the city.

Trams are a responsible choice for travel; a positive investment being made by more and more European cities in their drive to deliver sustainable transport for generations to come. Edinburgh’s unique advantage is our publicly owned bus service, offering great scope for integration and joined-up thinking in delivering truly world class passenger service.

Whatever the challenges now or ahead, there is commitment, pride and determination from our dedicated team, stakeholders and partners. We will deliver.

About the author

Richard Jeffrey
Richard Jeffrey is the Chief Executive of tie (Transport Initiatives Edinburgh), the company responsible for the installation and operation of Edinburgh’s new tram system. Prior to this he worked for the Australian infrastructure investment business, Babcock and Brown, and prior to that he was the Managing Director of Edinburgh Airport for six years. Richard is on the Board of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, a Director of Edinburgh Leisure and the Australian Honorary Consul to Edinburgh.