Edinburgh Trams Energy Efficiency


With around 80-90% of all energy consumed by rail operations used for traction, the industry has long strived for a sustainable approach to traction energy savings. 

In the past, the industry has favoured technology-led approaches, e.g. regenerative braking and Driver Advisory Systems (DAS). However, there is a strong body of evidence that a more driver-centred approach - based on route-specific training and driving behaviour change - presents a simpler, more cost-effective approach. 



Developed in partnership with the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, DriveSmart performs detailed route analysis, which is then presented to driver teams to encourage energy-efficient manoeuvres at key locations along the route. The focus  is on helping driver teams understand how, where and when to apply more energy-efficient techniques whenever conditions allow.

Edinburgh Trams requested the installation of DriveSmart in 2018. The tram's route from the airport to the city centre was mapped on a simulator to identify optimum coasting points and cruising speeds specific to the route's gradients and curvatures, as well as the vehicle's unique characteristics. 

The simulator calculated the specific points on the route where drivers should increase speed, slow down or simply coast without drawing on the accelerator or braking excessively. 

The locations were also marked along the route with simple 'prompt' signs affixed to existing infrastructure on the route, and a training programme was developed to explain how and when to respond to the signs. More importantly, the training explained the rationale for the new driver behaviours, and how they would contribute significantly to the organisation's overall performance.


The DriveSmart system first entered into operation on a section of the Edinburgh Tram route in April 2018.

At the end of its first year it had supported a 17% reduction of energy use on the sections where it was used, equating to a 10% reduction across the full route (including sections where DriveSmart is not used). 

Edinburgh Trams was ‘highly commended’ for environmental sustainability at the Global Light Rail Awards 2018 for their use of DriveSmart.


Edinburgh Trams

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Energy efficiency

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UK, Edinburgh

Energy efficient driving - DriveSmart
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