South Suburban rail line could carry passengers by 2021: MSP

A freight train on the South Sub line at Morningside. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

A freight train on the South Sub line at Morningside. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

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EDINBURGH’S South Suburban rail line could see passenger services running again within five years, new Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs believes.

Reopening the former commuter route, closed in 1962, has been a recurring topic for years.

Passengers at Morningside station in 1961. Picture: TSPL

Passengers at Morningside station in 1961. Picture: TSPL

But he says: “There is quite a lot of cross-party support. I hope we can build up a campaign.

“There will be a strategic transport review during the course of this parliament.

“If we can put together a feasibility study early on I would hope the government would back it.

“The parliament could put through a Bill if necessary – and there’s no reason why it couldn’t be open by the end of this parliament.”

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Mr Briggs argues that unlike the Borders railway, the track for the South Sub is already there – it is still used for freight and diverted services. All that is needed is the stations and the rolling stock.

He has already got a request in to meet new Transport Minister Humza Yousaf for talks on the case for reopening the line.

“The first thing we need is a feasibility study,” he says. “The last time they were talking about £40 million. I would hope now we would be looking at around £50m to get it open.

“If the Scottish Government does not come up with the money, the City Deal might also present an opportunity.” The South Sub is just is one of the issues he is keen to pursue in parliament.

Mr Briggs grew up in Perthshire and studied economics at Aberdeen Business School before working in Canada for the provincial government in Prince Edward Island for a year. After the 2005 Holyrood election, he began working for Tory MSPs at the parliament.

He stood in the 2010 general election and the 2011 Holyrood election in North East Fife and fought Edinburgh South at last year’s Westminster election and Edinburgh Southern at this year’s Holyrood contest.

But he was also number two on the Tories’ Lothian list, after Ruth Davidson, which is how he got elected.

Now he has been made the party’s public health spokesman, which fits well with some of the other priorities he has identified.

“Edinburgh is just full of health issues I’m keen to pursue,” he says. “We’ve had great success on defibrilators – the Evening News led that and should be hugely congratulated – but there is another level of this the parliament needs to look at. There are a lot of sudden deaths among sportsmen and women which we have not tackled. A national screening programme is something I would like to look at early on.”

His new job will see him lead for the Tories on mental health. “All the parties are committed to looking at how we improve mental health services,” he says. “But if we are going to make a difference we need to bring everyone together and start planning things early.

“What is the government doing now about the specialists they say we are going to need? There is no point waiting for two years for a Bill to go through and then start recruiting. There is a lot of work still to do on attitudes and stigma.

“You don’t need a Bill to get moving.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com