Firefighters in Edinburgh display technical expertise as they lift 56-tonne tram
03 January 2020
by Angeline Sneddon
Firefighters in Edinburgh demonstrated their heavy rescue capabilities during a unique training exercise to carefully lift a tram off the track.
Crews visited Edinburgh Trams depot in the west of the Capital to practice lifting the 56-tonne unladen vehicle, in preparation for any real-life emergencies.
As first responders, firefighters must earth the overhead electrical line so that they can safely work in and around a specific section of the tramway before lifting begins.
Elevating a vehicle of this size is a calculated process using airbags, jacks and blocks specifically designed for this purpose. Crews also have to carefully lower the tram back down onto the line.
Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Deputy Assistant Chief Officer James McNeil said: “The equipment and techniques used by firefighters as part of this exercise is unique in Scotland.
“The crews taking part come away from training with a better understanding of trams and gain vital skills that prepare them for responding to any real-life emergencies, such as an entrapment.
“We are really grateful to Edinburgh Trams for opening up their depot to our frontline personnel in the Capital.”
Colin Kerr, Head of Safety and Projects for Edinburgh Trams, said that this is a key partnership now and in the future:
“It’s important to us that as first responders to an incident, or in their day-to-day work, firefighters are able to either earth the overhead line or lift a tram quickly and safely. It’s been a real partnership process between Edinburgh Trams, our maintainers – Siemens and CAF and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
"This has delivered a valuable training package, with all parties leading the way with best practice that can be shared with the light rail industry and will put us in good stead as work starts on the extension of the line to Newhaven."
Although, thankfully, firefighters have never had to put into practice the lifting of a tram on the city’s streets, SFRS Station Commander William Pollard says crews are ready to respond.
He commented: “Collaborating with Edinburgh Trams over the past five years has given us a great opportunity to put our decision making to the test during a simulated rescue. This was a successful exercise and the crew involved demonstrated their technical expertise as they lifted and lowered the tram. Being able to work with a genuine tram has been incredibly effective and our learnings help us to protect the public, which is at the heart of what we do.”