EDINBURGH’S proposed £1 billion City Deal could hold the key to hopes of reopening the Capital’s South Suburban rail line, according to leading advocates of the project.
Edinburgh Southern SNP MSP Jim Eadie, who has secured the promise of talks between council leaders and Transport Minister Derek Mackay, said the expected injection of new cash from UK and Scottish governments could be a “game-changer”.
He believes the City Deal, which also involves the other Lothian councils, Fife and Borders, could offer the chance to develop the line as part of a wider transport infrastructure.
Mr Eadie recently visited Sheffield to see the UK’s first tram-train project, which he hopes could signal a way forward for the South Sub.
And last week, during a debate in the Scottish Parliament, there was cross-party support for reopening the line, last used for passenger services in 1962. Mr Eadie said stations along the line could serve key sites such as Edinburgh and Napier universities and Hearts’ Tynecastle ground.
He said: “I’m hugely encouraged by the high level of support which exists across all the parties and was pleased the minister agreed to my request for a meeting to explore this idea further. It’s not going to be achieved overnight – I’m realistic about that.
“The first hurdle is to get agreement from the city council and stakeholders such as the universities and Heart of Midlothian for the principle of reinstatement of the South Sub. We need a feasibility study which would demonstrate the business case for reopening the line. There are a number of problems to be overcome, but I’m confident they can all be overcome if the will exists.
“I think the City Deal is a game-changer in terms of funding the reinstatement of the South Sub as part of an integrated transport plan for Edinburgh.
“It’s not just the South Sub in isolation, but as part of a bigger plan that meets the needs of the capital city as it grows over the next 20-30 years. My sense is the timing is right to revisit this issue.”
Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack also argued the City Deal could help make a revived South Sub a reality.
She said: “I believe it could be a game-changer if we have a partnership with SEStran, look at the City Deal options, bring the rail partners into play and look at the connections between tram, bus, rail and active travel.”
City council leader Andrew Burns said Mr Mackay’s office had been in touch and he was hoping to meet with him and Mr Eadie “very soon”.
He said: “I’m very supportive of the principle of passenger services returning to the South Suburban, and happy to work with the Scottish Government and SEStran to look constructively at any revised or new options that might help make that a possibility.”
He said any detailed discussion on how the City Deal might help with the future of the South Sub would have to take place “further down the line”.