South Sub rail line has ‘endless potential’, Holyrood told

Passengers leaving Morningside Station in 1961.

Passengers leaving Morningside Station in 1961.

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TRANSPORT Minister Derek Mackay has agreed to meet city politicians to discuss the possible re-opening of Edinburgh’s South Suburban rail line.

The promise came at the end of a debate in the Scottish Parliament, called by Edinburgh South SNP MSP Jim Eadie, which underlined the cross-party support for the project.

Mr Eadie told fellow MSPs the Capital was to experience an exponential growth in population over the next 20 years, with studies suggesting an increase of almost 30 per cent. The current transport infrastructure would be able to cope.

He said: “The South Sub route has endless possibilities and potential. Reinstating the South Sub could act as a catalyst for an integrated transport plan for Edinburgh that is truly fit for the 21st century. Our Capital needs and 
deserves it.

“The station at Gorgie could serve Heart of Midlothian Football Club, Craiglockhart could serve Edinburgh Napier University, and Blackford and Newington could serve the University of Edinburgh. A new link to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary that stems from the current South Sub station at Cameron Toll would vastly improve the transport options for patients and national health service staff, and it would serve the ever-expanding Edinburgh BioQuarter.”

He said he had recently visited Sheffield to learn about the UK’s first tram-train project, which could offer a way forward for the South Sub.

Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack, a former Transport Minister, said the South Sub was a project whose time had come.

But she said it needed rail partners, the Scottish Government and all interested parties to play their part.

“It needs us all to make this happen, and the benefits would be for the citizens of Edinburgh. In my view, what is good for the citizens of Edinburgh is good for Edinburgh’s economy, the Lothian economy and the Scottish economy.”

Lothian Tory MSP Cameron Buchanan said the most recent study suggested reinstatement of passenger services could cost between £18m to £30m. “That is a large amount of money, but we must remember to consider it in the context of the wide range of direct and indirect benefits the railway would bring.”

Lothian Green MSP Alison Johnstone said reopening the South Sub would add another dimension to Edinburgh’s transport offering.

She added: “It is well worth another look. If the city continues to grow at its current pace, the scheme will become essential.”

Replying to the debate, Mr Mackay acknowledged the cross-party support for the project.

And he said he was ready to have talks with Mr Eadie and leaders from the city council.

He continued: “Although we have no plans to fund the project it is certainly worth considering the information that is there.

“I am happy to meet and to take the issue further, but I give a strong message that I want to see clear evidence from the south east of Scotland transport partnership and City of Edinburgh Council that the issue is a priority for them, so that it can be taken seriously, rather than being regarded just as a nice thing to do that is on people’s wish lists.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com