Bid to re-open Portobello railway station

The Talisman Express passes through Portobello Station. Picture: TSPL
The Talisman Express passes through Portobello Station. Picture: TSPL
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CAMPAIGNERS are pushing to re-open Portobello Railway station to the public 50 years after a decision was made to close it.

The station has not been in use since 1964, but would be reopened under ambitious proposals being put forward by Portobello Community Council.

Engineering issues and cost had previously derailed bids to revive the station, but it is understood the Borders Railway project will soon resolve one of the main obstacles.

Portobello Junction is to be remodelled to allow for a greater frequency of trains and campaigners are hopeful any upgrade work will allow for a station reopening.

All that remains is the station master’s house, which sits at Station Brae, off Brighton Place.

Portobello community councillor Max Blinkhorn said: “It’s early days but the Borders Railway remodelling should lead to costs coming down significantly.

“There would obviously be other hoops such as having to prove that a Portobello Station would be worthwhile and attracting necessary funding, but there’s a real appetite for it locally. It would make Portobello and the promenade a real destination. It would be a great thing for the area.”

Portobello station was originally closed as part of the swingeing cuts to the network following the publication of the Beeching Report in 1963.

Members of the Capital Rail Action Group (Crag) are of the belief that running trains through Portobello would dramatically reduce journey times for those travelling in and out of the city centre – a five-minute train ride compared to a 30-minute bus service.
Portobello is by no means the only local community looking to reopen its old rail station. In East Lothian, East Linton residents have been asking for a rail service linking them to Edinburgh for years.

It would appear that the Scottish Government is listening as it has asked companies bidding for the next ScotRail franchise to include the cost of a Berwick-upon-Tweed to Edinburgh service stopping at new stations at East Linton and Reston, in the Borders.

A report commissioned by the South East Scotland transport partnership has also been published showing that such a service has a strong business case and would be possible without disrupting London trains.

Rail operator Network Rail said at present it has no plan to reopen Portobello Station but remains open to Scottish Government instruction or any third party bid.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “We are always open to discuss third-party proposals to enhance the railway, but any project of this nature would have to be supported by a viable business case, have a funding package and meet a clear need.”

One of beeching’s victims

The station was opened in 1846 by the North British Railway. During its lifetime it was served by most passenger trains running out of the east end of Waverley including stopping trains on the Berwick and Carlisle main lines and through trains to towns such as Musselburgh, North Berwick, Gifford, Penicuik and Dalkeith.

There was also a service to South Leith from a separate platform. Following the opening of Leith Central in 1903, the South Leith service was rapidly run down and withdrawn in 1905.

Originally Portobello was not included in the list of stations proposed for closure in Dr Becching’s Reshaping of British Railways report of March 1963, but was added later and closed on September 7, 1964.