Royal Blind Pupils Get Sneak Preview of Edinburgh Trams

Posted: 17/04/2014 | Education,


A group of five pupils from the Royal Blind School had a fun day on Thursday 13th March when they got the chance to take a ride on one of Edinburgh’s long awaited trams. As the tram system isn’t due to launch until May, it was a fantastic opportunity to find out what the service will actually be like and how well it will cater to the unique needs of disabled, blind and visually impaired passengers.


The tram testing exercise, codenamed ‘Exercise Salvador’, saw almost 1,000 volunteers meet at Murrayfield Stadium to ride on the trams en masse and assess how well the system coped with the large crowds that typically come pouring out of the ground after a rugby match or concert.


Teacher Sandy Lunan was one of the staff who accompanied the pupils on the day. She explains:


“The school approached the Edinburgh Trams Company last term because our theme was ‘Transport’. They gave us the chance to come along on the testing day as that was the first time the public could access the trams to that extent and a lot of tram staff would be on hand to help.


“We took five older pupils aged 15 to 17. None of the pupils have speech but they were all given the choice to attend and were very enthusiastic. When we got there, we were told exactly what was going to happen and why. Everything worked like clockwork.”


When they arrived at the stadium the assembled volunteers received a safety briefing from Michael Powell, the tram service’s dedicated Safety and Standards Manager. After the briefing, the volunteers walked to Murrayfield tram station where they tested the new lift access to the platform. Staff and pupils rode a tram to Edinburgh Park and back again, after which they had a half hour break and provided feedback about their journey to the assembled tram staff. Finally, they took a second tram ride all the way to and from Edinburgh Airport.


Sandy says: “With our young people, the more repetition there is the better as it helps with learning. One tram journey would have been exciting but going on a tram for a second time after a short break was even better as they understood what was happening and it reinforced the experience. There were so many signs of enjoyment, understanding and laughter.  Another positive element was the fact that the tram is quiet, smooth and doesn’t make much noise so the pupils felt safe and were able to hear what was being said while on board. There was a really happy atmosphere and everyone on the tram was smiling and chatting to each other. The young people picked up on all of this positivity and were animated and happy!”


Since the trip took place, school staff have done follow up work with the pupils to aid learning: “We’ve written an article about the day and put it up on the screen as you come into the school. Also, each pupil was issued with a tram ticket and we’ll put that, the photos and the article into their memory boxes. We’ve also discussed it with the pupils to encourage recall and made a computer story about the day, which they can access when they choose.”


The trams have been the butt of Edinburgh residents’ jokes for several years due to delays, setbacks and spiralling costs, but these controversies certainly didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of some of the first passengers to ride on an Edinburgh tram since the previous system was scrapped in 1956.


Sandy says: “Everyone who was there had volunteered to take part and there was a really nice atmosphere. Lots of people were taking photographs: I saw hundreds of cameras. There were one or two jokes about the nature of the test though: the Salvador exercise was designed to check how well the trams coped with large and small capacity crowds, but people joked that (unlike concert goers) we were all very well behaved. The first big event at Murrayfield after the trams go live will be a packed One Direction concert full of excitable teenagers: that will be a real challenge!”            


Whether the tram system will cope with hordes of One Direction fans remains to be seen, but thanks to staff and pupils of the Royal Blind School volunteering their time, the new tram system will be better able to anticipate the future needs of its many registered blind and visually impaired passengers – we look forward to trying it out!