A potential return of trams to the streets of Aberdeen has left residents debating everything from Edinburgh’s light rail fiasco and the state of Union Street, to time travel and classic episodes of The Simpsons.
Yesterday, The Press And Journal revealed that trams or a light rail system remain in the thoughts of those mapping out the city’s Covid recovery with a grand £150 million refresh of the Aberdeen masterplan.
However, masterplan lead Councillor Marie Boulton said the prospect would not come to fruition any time soon.
It comes as work continues on a tram-like Aberdeen rapid transit system, similar to Belfast’s Glider service, which could be funded by the Scottish Government.
The sight of old images of trams in the city brought on a bout of nostalgia for some, who shared memories of the city fleet’s final ride down to the beach.
Meanwhile, others hit out at the decision-makers of the day for discarding Aberdeen’s trams in the first place.
Even supporters of the Aberdeen tram revival are put off by the potential cost
Few voiced support for the proposals without caveat, admitting the idea still felt far-fetched in the modern age.
Stan Castles said: “It is a pleasure to get on San Francisco’s trams, however, to lay the rails again would be a monumental task and cost for the council. Never going to happen.”
Others thought the time had come and gone for Aberdeen’s tramways, “as nice as they are”.
But the idea captured the imagination of Colin Farquhar, who tweeted that he would “love” to see a tram network in Aberdeen.
“Imagine Beach > Union St > Holburn Street to Duthie Park. Maybe Union Street > Bridge of Don or Union Street up to Queen’s Cross.”
Jordan Jack, an infrastructure campaigner told us: “The answer is clearly yes, (trams should be reintroduced in Aberdeen).
“Third largest city in Scotland, plenty of dual carriageways ripe to convert to tramways, we should already have trams. Instead we’re getting ‘bus rapid transport’.”
However, while there were healthy numbers of commenters on the Aberdeen Journals social media channels both for and against the idea, it was the noes who came out in force.
Aberdeen trams: ‘Look at Edinburgh and learn’
Many focussed on the potential for an Edinburgh-sized financial disaster, after the project to reinstate the capital’s tram network cost more than £400 million than initially quoted.
The line eventually put in place was shortened as the project rolled on for three years past the original 2011 deadline.
Reader Lorraine Chisholm wrote: “After the disaster and never-ending cost increases and moving deadlines in Edinburgh, maybe trams should stay in the past!”
Another, Bob Steele, urged city leaders simply to “look at Edinburgh and learn”.
Meanwhile, Jonny Bee pointed to the huge costs associated with a project like reintroducing trams to Aberdeen after their 1950s demise – while leading us nicely on to the next argument against the far-off plans.
He wrote: “The project to reintroduce trams to Edinburgh cost almost £800m.
“Edinburgh is obviously a bigger and more expensive city but those figures still say something about how expensive these things are.
“The council would be much better off investing much less money to make existing busses greener.”
Support for Aberdeen’s new hydrogen bus fleet and campaign for reconnecting railways
Others also mentioned Aberdeen’s pioneering work on hydrogen buses – hoped to be tied to a future north-east industry in hydrogen production – after the city launched the world’s first fleet of H-powered double deckers at the beginning of the year.
Bill Stewart took to Facebook to tell us it was a “daft idea”, adding: “Just (push) on with the introduction of hydrogen-powered buses.
“Removes pollution from the streets while giving the flexibility of route alterations when needed and no need to dig up roads to install tracks etc.”
Commenters also revealed they would prefer another project supported by Mrs Boulton: to reinstate rail links between the Granite City and Aberdeenshire towns including Banchory, Ellon, Peterhead and Fraserburgh.
Michael Matthew wrote: “At what cost? Think about how much it cost Edinburgh. It would be better having trains from Aberdeen to Peterhead, Ellon, Fraserburgh, Banff etc joining up to Elgin.”
Claims tired Granite Mile should be the priority
While Mrs Boulton confirmed council officers were not actively working on plans for trams to come back, she revealed light rail mass transportation services were at least in the back of their minds.
But first, the council is working on fixes for the city centre – to bring people back to Union Street after Covid, to face up to the change in retail practices and as the need for office space continues to lag well behind vacant buildings.
Readers clearly prioritised this work first, with some calling for money instead to be put towards reduction of business rents and rates in the city centre to bring business back.
Despite Union Street’s former tram lines, readers also raised concerns about sharing the space with the trollies should cars still be allowed to use the city’s main thoroughfare.
Back To The Future? ‘You can do better than this,’ councillors told
Some took issue with claims that bringing trams back from the would be “innovative”, as Mrs Boulton claimed on the front of The P&J yesterday.
Referencing the family favourite movie, starring Michael J Fox, reader Fiona Cuthbert quipped: “Innovative? More like Back To The Future.”
According to many, including Mark Davidson, it would be a step backwards in time – by “100 years”.
He added: “You can do better than this (and) if you can’t, it’s time to step aside and let someone who can take over.”
A basic summary of our FB comment sections on this one. "It would be nice but expensive" or "no, look at the Edinburgh fiasco. Expensive!" or just gifs from a near 30-year-old cartoon about a different mode of transport. pic.twitter.com/J1pHs3NCzz
— Alastair Gossip (@AlastairGossip) October 11, 2021
Once the pop culture references began, it was only a matter of time before the age-old staple of any rail transportation news comments section emerged – the Springfield monorail.
An ill-fated con sold to the hometown of The Simpsons, the flawed single-track train lasted a single, acclaimed episode of the long-running cartoon.
Springfield residents voted to blow their fortunes on the genuine, bona fide, electrified, six-car monorail system – said to glide as softly as a cloud by silver-tongued salesman Lyle Lanley – and sealed the deal through a show-stopping musical number.
Bri Mc wrote: “Just need a catchy song to get the locals on board.”
Mark Walker added: “Aye sure (I would like to see trams back in the Granite City) but let’s get the monorail in first.”