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Monday, July 14, 2014

North of the Border

I recently made a day trip to Edinburgh, capital of Scotland and one of Europe's great cities. There is so much to see, including one of Britain's largest railway stations: Waverley.

Edinburgh / Edinbourg

Waverley has 20 platforms and trains are always moving. The station is right in the middle of the city and there are good views from vantage points above each end of the station, offering the chance for good views of the railway flanked by the city skyline.

Scotland is different from the rest of the UK in that almost all of its rail service falls under one franchise: First ScotRail. Apart from trains running into England, everything is operated by "Scotland's Railway." In truth, it is just like any other privatized franchise, but it feels like a part of the growing feeling of Scottish distinctiveness, as seen with the newly-formed Police Scotland or the unique Scottish NHS and university funding systems.

Nobody has really talked about what might happen to the rail network should Scotland vote for independence. With most services under one franchise, a split would be relatively straightforward. Cross-border trains would be a different matter.

If mainline railways don't take your fancy, Edinburgh now boasts a tram system as well. While the cost went well over-budget took much more time than expected (and ended up with a much smaller network than planned), I saw many people waiting to board airport-bound trams along Princes Street.

Princes Street Tram / Tramway de la rue Princes

I'm not sure how successful the tram system will be in the long-run. Even if Princes Street is largely reserved for public transport already, the trams are struggling to find room with all the buses, meaning that the system often runs late. Hopefully, planners will be able to find a way to speed things up.

Edinburgh is an interesting place to visit, with interesting places to walk and lots of free museums to enjoy. I hope to return in the future and explore more of the land north of the border.

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