COUNCIL chiefs were today urged to move quickly to ensure the option of reopening Edinburgh’s South Suburban rail line to passenger services.
Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs met Transport Minister Humza Yousaf to discuss the future of the route, which closed as a commuter line in 1962 and is now used for some freight trains and diverted services.
And afterwards he said he had been encouraged by Mr Yousaf’s attitude.
But Mr Briggs said Network Rail was considering an increase in freight trains using the line, which could frustrate hopes of restoring passenger services.
And he called on the city council and regional transport body Sestran to act speedily to propose a fresh feasibility study and put together a business case for the line.
He said: “If we are going to get it open as the South Sub passenger line we are going to have to move quickly.
“It might kill the South Sub plan if it becomes a major freight line, so it’s important we look at it before we lose the opportunity.”
Mr Briggs made the South Sub one of his first priorities after he was elected in May, picking up the campaign from former Edinburgh Southern SNP MSP Jim Eadie. There has been cross-party support for calls to re-open the line and Mr Briggs has voiced hopes it could be achieved within the next five years.
He said he believed Mr Yousaf would be receptive to a proposal on a feasibility study.
“He has given me a commitment that the government is open to listening and is prepared to look at what the council and Sestran bring forward.
“And if they make a strong case, they might look at potentially putting money into funding a feasibility study.
“It’s now for the council and the transport partnership to make the business case for its reopening. It needs some willpower in the council to take it forward.”
Mr Briggs said the council had previously signalled the South Sub could be part of the City Deal, the expected investment package from Westminster and Holyrood governments.
But he said: “In Manchester city deal there were lots of projects put forward which are not now going ahead – we don’t want that to happen.”
A Network Rail spokesman said: “We are carrying out upgrade work on the south suburban line to allow additional freight trains to use the line, and for passenger trains to use it as a diversionary route. At present there are no plans to reintroduce a timetabled passenger service on the line.”