Reopening of Edinburgh's South Suburban railway being "actively considered" says minister

REOPENING of passenger services on Edinburgh’s South Suburban railway is being “actively considered” in a review of strategic transport investment, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson has told MSPs.

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

Lothian Conservative MSP Miles Briggs had asked about plans for a feasibility study of the “South Sub” route which links the city centre to Gorgie, Craiglockhart, South Morningside, Cameron Toll, Craigmillar and Portobello. The line has been closed to passengers since 1962 and is currently only used for freight trains.

Mr Briggs said Edinburgh and South-East Scotland was seeing a significant growth in population and had “a real and pressing need” for a long-term plan to invest in local transport projects.

Mr Matheson said: “Reopening of the South Suburban rail line for passengers is being considered as part of an option to expand Edinburgh’s mass transit network with the second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2). The review is expected to conclude in the autumn of 2021."

He said pre-appraisal work had been shared with regional transport partners, the city council and other Lothian authorities. “It is now for them to look at the details of that and to consider what further work is necessary to take that forward. That will then feature as part of considerations for STPR2.

"This is all part of the wider work Edinburgh is undertaking as part of the mass tranist plan they are looking to develop to support transportation across Edinburgh and beyond. It is clearly an area that needs to be given further consideration but it is certainly one which is being actively considered at the present moment.”

Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson also asked about the line and said a previous study into reopening the route showed it would be worth between £13m and £27m. But he argued the fact both the Edinburgh Trams and the Borders Railway had outperformed their financial projections suggested the South Sub would be an even more successful project.

Mr Matheson said: “None of these strategic project sit on their own – they need to be considered alongside other interventions that can help to improve transportation across Edinburgh and the Lothians and how that integrates into the wider transport system across the country. That’s why it’s so important we have a process that brings these things together so we can prioritise them on the basis of what is necessary.”

Mr Briggs said afterwards: “A passenger service on the South Sub would bring real benefits to Edinburgh and the Lothians and I’m pleased it is being actively considered.

“From the delay to the Sheriffhall Roundabout to the increasing levels of congestion on the City By-pass the Capital is grinding to a halt on the watch of SNP ministers.

“It is clear there is a growing need to see investment in transport infrastructure in the Capital and for consideration to be given to how best to achieve an intergrated transport network fit for the future needs of Edinburgh, Scotland and the UK.

“The future success of Edinburgh and the south-east region, the only part of the Scottish economy which is growing, depends on delivering improvement to infrastructure and connectivity.”

In a recent council survey on transport plans, reopening the South Sub to passenger services emerged top of the list when the public was asked for ideas to improve the city's transport system.

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