MSPs ask Hearts and universities to fund suburban rail

South Suburban rail advocate, MSP Jim Eadie. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
South Suburban rail advocate, MSP Jim Eadie. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
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HEART of Midlothian and two of the city’s universities are to be asked to help fund the latest bid to bring the South Suburban rail line back into passenger use.

Edinburgh Southern SNP MSP Jim Eadie and council leader Andrew Burns held talks with Transport Minister Derek Mackay earlier this week on the potential for restoring regular services on the route as part of the Capital’s wider transport infrastructure.

But the first step would be a new feasibility study to update estimates of how much it would cost and how many people would use the line.

With the city council under massive financial pressures and the Scottish Government not ready to put money into the project at this stage, the plan is to see if organisations who would like to see the South Sub back in operation are prepared to stump up for an initial study.

The circular route runs from Waverley through Piershill, Niddrie, Craigmillar, Cameron Toll, Newington, Blackford, Morningside, Craiglockhart and Gorgie to Haymarket.

A reopened line would be expected to include stations at Gorgie, which could serve Hearts’ Tynecastle ground; Craiglockhart, which could be useful for Edinburgh Napier University; and Blackford and Newington, handy for Edinburgh University.

Mr Eadie said: “Andrew Burns and I have agreed we will work together to assemble a coalition of support to enable a feasibility study to take place.

“We are hoping to have a series of meeting with Edinburgh University, Edinburgh Napier University, the Chamber of Commerce, Heart of Midlothian FC and other stakeholders.”

He said they would also seek talks with Network Rail.

Regular passenger services ended on the South Sub in 1962, but the line is still used for freight and as a diversion route for passenger trains.

There have long been calls for the line to be reopened to ease congestion and cut pollution.

The latest talks came after Mr Eadie sponsored a member’s debate in the Scottish Parliament.

Councillor Burns said: “I’m grateful the minister found time this week to meet myself and Jim Eadie, who instigated the recent South Suburban debate in parliament. All sides acknowledge that much further work is required to see this project potentially come to fruition, but we agreed to keep exploring options with interested parties, and to keep in touch over any further developments.”

The debate at Holyrood showed cross-party support for reopening the South Sub.

And Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack agreed with Mr Eadie that Edinburgh’s expected £1 billion City Deal could be a “game-changer”.

He hopes the injection of new cash from UK and Scottish governments could make significant sums available for investment in the project.

He has described the reopening of the South Sub as “a catalyst” for an integrated transport plan for Edinburgh to help cope with the forecast growth in population over the next 20 years, with studies suggesting an increase of almost 30 per cent.