Jobs safe as Network Rail backs down on Millerhill

Millerhill rail depot. Picture: Julie Bull
Millerhill rail depot. Picture: Julie Bull
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UP TO 40 jobs have been saved at Edinburgh’s Millerhill rail depot after bosses abandoned plans to switch work to England.

Network Rail sparked an angry reaction last month when it announced track engineering and maintenance functions were to be moved from Millerhill to Carlisle.

But after a high-profile campaign by the RMT union and local politicians, the rail operator has confirmed the depot will continue to be used for distribution of ballast and aggregate used in track renewal projects across the Scottish network.

Millerhill had played a crucial role as distribution centre for materials for the Borders Rail project, which has now been completed.

And it was feared its only future could be as a stabling yard for the new fleet of electric trains for the Glasgow-Edinburgh line.

Network Rail had also talked of the option of developing land at Millerhill.

But the union claimed it would be an act of “industrial vandalism” to scrap a key rail resource, which had cost millions of pounds to develop and which could play a vital role in the future as rail capacity was expanded across Scotland.

The RMT also pointed out the depot was located in an area previously ravaged by the destruction of the mining industry and it provided decent jobs both directly and throughout the supply chain.

Network Rail said investment to develop the Millerhill depot as a ballast and aggregate yard for track renewal had now been approved.

The depot is also used by rail contractors DB Schenker, who have also been involved in the decision to retain it.

It is understood Millherhill will reopen as a local distribution centre in June next year.

DB Schenker have said they will keep drivers and ground staff employed until that date and use them as required for other work as well as route learning.

Lothian Labour MSP Neil Findlay, who campaigned against the planned transfer of jobs, welcomed the company’s U-turn.

He said: “This is great news. The RMT and I lobbied the Scottish Government heavily to put pressure on Network Rail to ensure this facility remained in Edinburgh and we are very pleased all our efforts appear to have borne fruit.”

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the political pressure put on Network Rail, DB Schenker, Transport Scotland and transport secretary Michael Matheson was crucial in reversing the closure plan.

He said: “This safeguards economically vital jobs and our members’ livelihoods. It proves that if you fight you can win.”

Network Rail said the depot’s new role was similar to the one it played for the Borders Rail project.

A spokesman said: “Plans to invest in a new ballast and aggregates depot at Millerhill have been approved and we are now developing a programme of works for delivery of the new facility.

“We will continue to work closely with both our freight company and trade union colleagues as our plans progress.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com