Miles Briggs: Reopen Edinburgh suburban rail line

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Do you remember travelling on the Edinburgh Suburban line? It is some 53 years since the service ceased to operate. In that time the old stations have become overgrown yet the basic infrastructure remains – with 60 freight trains using the line each day.

Edinburgh must be one of the only capital cities in Europe that doesn’t have some kind of suburban railway system. It’s time for us to catch up.

The fantastic sight this week of the Queen travelling on the the Union of South Africa steam locomotive to officially reopen the Borders Railway has made many look at other potential passenger rail services which could be brought back into use.

The Edinburgh Suburban line opened in 1884. Although its route was rural at the time, suburban development quickly caught up and passenger numbers on the line were buoyant.

The Scottish Parliament already has a good record of taking forward transport projects and although the trams scheme may have left a bad taste for many Edinburgh taxpayers a number of projects have proved successful. Since Holyrood was established projects such as the Airdrie-Bathgate rail link, Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine rail link, and the Borders Railway have all once again connected communities to the rail network. In each case the predicted passengers numbers have had to be revised upwards after the public usage vastly exceeded the target.

The last feasibility study undertaken to look at reinstating a passenger service recommended trains travelling between Waverley and Haymarket via stations at Gorgie, Craiglockhart, Morningside, Blackford or Newington, Cameron Toll, Craigmillar, Niddrie and Kinnaird. The report suggested if trains were to run every 15 minutes, the line could attract up to 13,500 people every day. In fact, the council resolved to work with the then Scottish Executive and the rail industry to secure, in a similar timescale to the Borders Railway, the reintroduction of passenger services to the Edinburgh South Suburban Railway in 2005.

I strongly believe that the reopening of the Borders Railway has demonstrated the great opportunity there is to consider further the reinstating of passenger services on the Edinburgh Suburban line and believe the time has come for a new feasibility study.

I hope we can see cross-party support for the idea and that the Edinburgh Suburban line can be progressed in the next Parliament. By reinstating a passenger service, this would present the opportunity to deliver real benefits for local residents in the south of the city as well as easing congestion. Who knows, perhaps one day soon we will see the Queen getting on at Morningside Station.

Miles Briggs is the Tory MSP candidate for Edinburgh Southern