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Harry on the trains in Scotland: The train up, and the tram across

Harry on the trains in Scotland: The train up, and the tram across
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Mum and I have recently taken a trip up to Edinburgh and experienced all sorts of transport across southern Scotland. There's a lot I've loved, and a lot that needs improvement. Here are my thoughts, in the first of several blog posts covering my trip.

We started off, of course, by travelling from home to the hotel at Edinburgh Park. This meant a short hop from Northampton to Rugby then a not so short hop from Rugby direct to Edinburgh Waverley.

Yes, I’m aware that this wasn’t the fastest possible route but we were keen to just get sat on one train to avoid connections (i.e. at Crewe). In fact, it was indeed a very comfortable five-hour journey in Standard Premium, relatively quiet (although the same cannot be said for Standard).

After our train from Rugby arrived on time at Waverley, we caught ScotRail over to North Berwick on a lovely Class 385 to see the sea for the first time while up there. Yes, the seats aren’t particularly comfy but for the short average length of journeys, I wouldn’t call it a big deal. Six coaches was the perfect length and the stations en-route were clean and some very quaint – as was North Berwick itself.

Long story short, we caught the train back to Edinburgh quite quickly – which was also on time – and mixed it up with a tram to Edinburgh Park to check into our hotel. This was the bit that I think could do with quite a lot of improvement. First of all, the ticketing was complicated:

  • There were multiple ways to purchase tickets and we ended up going with the Transport for Edinburgh M-tickets app, thinking this is the usual app to purchase tickets.
  • I purchased a ticket for both of us (two adult tickets), which required validation by scanning a QR code at the stop – fine, I thought.
  • However, only one ticket could be activated on one phone at a time which I only learnt at the stop, meaning I had to ‘share’ the ticket with Mum once a ticket check was conducted on-board the tram.
  • This meant Mum downloading the same app as me and going through a lengthy account creation process, then accepting my ‘invite’ to ‘share’ the ticket.
  • We were on the tram at the time and until we tried to activate the ticket we completely forgot we needed to scan the QR code at the stop, which meant the conductor needed to pull up a photo of the QR code on her phone taken at a random stop on the network for us to scan.
  • We were later suggested a different app by the conductor, called ‘et’, adding to the confusion if anything!

The vehicle itself was also quite dirty and got busy very quickly. But the tram driver gave us a wave and the conductor was lovely so there’s that!

There’s so much potential to ‘Oyster-ise’ and ‘zone-ise’ the Edinburgh transport network. It could be easily split into modes, with buses having a flat fare at £2, as there is for any single journey right now on buses and trams, but it is non-sensical for trams from the Airport to Newhaven to cost £7.50 one-way, but trams between one stop off the Airport and Newhaven to cost £2.

A zone-based fare system may well make a lot more sense, with the backing of the devolved government and now nationalised rail operator, ScotRail.

Of course, we need to remember that this wasn’t initially planned to be the end of the Edinburgh tram network, with the initial plan comprising of Line 1 (a circular route around the northern suburbs) as well as Line 2 and Line 3 (from the City Centre to Newbridge and Newcraighall respectively).

However, this is obviously not what Edinburgh has now, instead just a single line between the Airport and the City Centre via Edinburgh Park, later extending to Newhaven in June 2023.

The tram got us to Edinburgh Park eventually and got us checked into quite a nice hotel which I would most definitely recommend, Premier Inn Edinburgh Park (Airport), (aside from the terrible mobile signal). Brilliant location right outside the station with pretty decent connectivity across southern Scotland.

Before I go on for too long, I’ll bring post one to a close. Next time, we’re heading north of Edinburgh towards Dunblane, Stirling and Dundee.

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