Edinburgh public transport action plan: new tramline, more bus lanes, possibly re-opening South Sub and potentially even a ferry to Fife

A tramline to the Royal Infirmary, possible reopening of the South Sub railway, more bus lanes to speed journeys to the city centre and potentially even a ferry to Fife are to feature in a public transport plan for Edinburgh to be unveiled later this year.

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The city's minority Labour administration said it was determined to achieve the Capital's 2030 net zero target and prioritise public transport. Council leaders and officials are working on the strategy now and the detailed plans are set to be published on December 2.

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Transport convener Scott Arthur said: "This is a key part of our ambition to hit net zero and reduce car use in the city."

New north-south tram route

He said the proposal for a new tramline from Granton in the north into the city centre and on to the infirmary, expected to cost at least £1 billion, would double the capacity of the existing network.

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But the council would have to ask the Scottish Government to help fund the project. "It would need support from the Scottish Government to progress so we're keen to work in partnership with them to deliver this investment which is of national importance, and help us meet our shared ambitions."

Councillor Arthur said he understood the government was backing the Clyde metro, a light rail system for the Glasgow area, which is estimated to cost up to £30 billion. "If we're seeing that amount of money going into Glasgow I think we're confident we can make the case for the tram line through Edinburgh, but it is about working in partnership."

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There could be a new north-south tramline from Granton to the Royal Infirmary. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.

He promised consultation on the route and said the optimistic aim was for completion by 2030.

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"The initial tram project did have significant problems and because of that people lost faith in investment in trams in Edinburgh, but extending the line to Newhaven has by and large been a successful project and people can now look at what we're doing with a bit more confidence."

Meanwhile, Newhaven could be one end of a new passenger-only ferry route over the Forth to Fife.

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Ferry from Newhaven to Kirkcaldy

The action plan includes increasing the number of bus lanes to make bus journeys quicker. Picture: Neil Hanna.
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Councillor Arthur said: "Off the back of the Newhaven line nearing completion there is now interest in a ferry connection across to Kirkcaldy. There have been technical discussions inside the council about this and at the political level I'm in the process of setting up a meeting with Fife Council early next month to look at how we could take this forward."

He said there were a lot of people commuting from Kirkcaldy to Edinburgh by car. "This is about taking some of those cars off the road and getting them to use what would essentially be public transport and connecting with the tramline to get into Edinburgh."

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More bus lanes on key routes

The action plan also includes investment in key bus corridors into the Capital, putting in new bus lanes to allow buses to get into the centre more quickly.

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A new feasibility study is planned into reopening all or part of the South Suburban railway. Picture: Andrew O'Brien.

"It's about reallocating road space on the arterial routes into Edinburgh to give greater priority to buses, making bus journeys more reliable and encouraging people to use public transport rather than drive."

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He hopes the new bus lanes will be in place by 2025.

Reopening South Sub rail line

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And the council plans to look again at reviving the South Suburban railway, which connected the city centre with Gorgie, Craiglockhart, South Morningside, Cameron Toll, Craigmillar and Portobello, but closed to passenger services in 1962.

"We're going to look at the feasibility of reopening it wholly or in part." He said previous studies showed overall there was a positive case for it, but the section of the line between Waverley and Haymarket was too congested to take any new services. There have been many calls over the years for the line to be reopened.

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Councillor Arthur said: "The administation is absolutely committed to hitting our net zero ambition and reducing car miles by 30 per cent so we're looking at new tram lines, investing in bus corridors and also more speculative ideas like reopening the South Sub and a ferry link to Fife.

"This public transport action plan is a big strategic piece of work which will be subjected to extensive public engagement between December and into the spring.

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"These are major projects so it's important people have a say on them as we develop them.

"The tramline alone will be the biggest expansion in public transport we've had this century because it will have more capacity than the line all the way from Newhaven to the aiprort. It's a huge expansion."

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