NEW hybrid trains which can run on both tram tracks and traditional rail lines could hold the answer to reopening Edinburgh’s South Suburban railway, an MSP believes.
There have long been calls for the “South Sub” – where passenger services were scrapped in 1962 – to be brought back into use in a bid to ease congestion and cut pollution.
One obstacle is the lack of capacity at Waverley Station to accommodate regular trains operating on the route.
Now Edinburgh Southern SNP MSP Jim Eadie believes tram-trains could be the solution.
Their hybrid design would mean they could leave the rail track at Haymarket and continue on the tram lines.
Mr Eadie – who has secured a debate on the issue in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday – visited Sheffield last week to see progress on what is believed to be the UK’s first ever tram-train project.
The tram-train pilot, which will start running between Sheffield and Rotherham next year, is unique because it will link heavy and light rail infrastructure, systems and operations.
South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive was awarded £51 million by the UK Government for the two-year pilot, which is seen as helping to determine whether tram-trains can run in other parts of the country.
Edinburgh’s South Sub line – still used by freight trains – would include stations at Gorgie, Craiglockhart, Morningside, Blackford or Newington, Cameron Toll, Craigmillar, Niddrie and Kinnaird Park.
The last study into relaunching the service was carried out almost a decade ago and suggested that if trains were to run every 15 minutes, the line could attract between 9000 and 13,500 people every day.
Mr Eadie said tram-trains are widely used in other European countries. And he believes Edinburgh can learn from Sheffield.
He said: “Like Edinburgh, Sheffield has a number of key economic growth sectors and a projected increase in its population. Both require a 21st century strategic transport plan to meet the needs of their cities. There are a number of lessons Edinburgh can learn from Sheffield’s development of the UK’s first ever tram-train.
“Foremost among them is the need to place any new transport project within a wider vision for the city.”
And he said there had been close collaboration between the key bodies, including the council, Network Rail and the transport authority. They had dealt with issues such as dual voltage, dual signals and the length of platforms and Edinburgh could benefit from that.
He said: “They have already had the experience of dealing with the technical specifications.
“It’s always harder to learn lessons the first time, but that expertise and technical knowledge would be available to Edinburgh.”