Winchburgh deserves its promised railway station - Sue Webber

I never cease to marvel at the ways the SNP finds to fritter away public money, like ferries that will never sail, airports with no passengers, investment banks that don’t lend and free paracetamol for wealthy people.
Sue Webber is a Scottish Conservative MSP for the LothiansSue Webber is a Scottish Conservative MSP for the Lothians
Sue Webber is a Scottish Conservative MSP for the Lothians

They are spending millions on a drinks container deposit recovery scheme producers, retailers and customers don’t want, and, true to form, the First Minister Humza Yousaf has wasted no time in getting set to blow thousands on yet another constitutional court case they know they won’t win on a cause two thirds of Scots don’t support.

And how many families knew they needed a baby box before his predecessor Nicola Sturgeon decided taxpayers would fund one for every new arrival.

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Strangely, the SNP is not so keen on investing in important projects people do want, even when there is clear need, like dualling the A9 and the A75. However, it has funded a new junction on the M9 which opened this week, to allow direct access from the fast-expanding Winchburgh village which will only push more traffic onto the already congested Forth crossings and the M8.

Winchburgh is set to be home for over 4,000 families due to a massive expansion agreed as part of the Edinburgh City Region Deal, going from 1,800 homes in 2021 to 4,100 in eight years’ time. As well as new schools and a neighbourhood centre with health facilities, the new Winchburgers were also promised a railway station to give ready access to the main Edinburgh-Glasgow line, reviving a service withdrawn in 1930.

Bizarrely, Transport Scotland prevented West Lothian Council from making the construction of a station a condition for planning consent for the housing developments because a business plan with service timetabling details hadn’t been completed.

A West Lothian Council report two weeks ago indicated Transport Scotland were now likely to approve a new station, but in the meantime the cost of building it has risen by around £10m, which the developer, Winchburgh Developments Ltd, says it can’t afford.

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In any case, stations are usually provided by Network Rail and as the Scottish Government nationalised Scotrail last year surely this is its responsibility?

And money is available through the Edinburgh City Regional Deal’s £50m infrastructure fund to support its seven strategic sites, including Winchburgh, because it’s understood £42m is unspent.

A new resident wrote to me this week to say one of the main reasons she moved to the area was the promise of modern transport, but if the station doesn’t happen, further house building could be limited to 750 units, and the housing crisis in the Lothians will worsen.

Therefore, the lack of any urgency to solve this problem is startling, given the City Region plan has been under discussion for over eight years. I’m launching a campaign to get it built because the whole point was to create a new community around sustainable transport.

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Spending more public money, last month then transport minister Jenny Gilruth gave free rail travel for four children with every fare-paying adult for two days just because it was the anniversary of the Scotrail nationalisation.

Even if her replacement Kevin Stewart bashes a few heads, it’s going to be a lot longer than a year before Winchburgh folk can enjoy such generosity from their own station.

Sue Webber is a Scottish Conservative Lothian MSP

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