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Welcome to the Edinburgh Light Railway Company Limited website.  In this site, I thought it would be interesting to explore the concept of creating a realistic, innovative yet practical light rail train transport solution that would operate virtually off-road as well as on some existing heavy rail lines, especially the Edinburgh South Suburban Railway (ESSR), to ease traffic congestion in and around Edinburgh.  It has been a thought provoking challenge to take the light rail train proposal to where individuals would best want it in terms of origin and destination and has involved thinking things through from a different and hopefully refreshing perspective.  I hope you enjoy this particular trip.

In 2019 how does the idea of running hydrogen trains on the suburban lines sound! Well they would not make much sound at all as it happens!  For more information on this see the two new entries on the main menu i.e.  “Hydrogen Trains are a Reality in 2019” and “Reopening the Edinburgh South Suburban Railway (ESSR) in 2019”.

These are interesting documents because  the Scotrail Alliance have said that they have no immediate plans to  electrify the ESSR but are in favour of reopening the ESSR to passenger traffic albeit using tram trains only so as to avoid Waverley Station.  This would of course mean electrifying the ESSR.  The Scottish Government / Transport Scotland have no current plans to open the ESSR to passenger traffic either and no current plans to electrify the line.

The Department for Transport has also confirmed that it is scaling back rail electrification plans which means that there will be a greater demand for non-electric trains.

The conundrum for the ESSR is that for the first time in a long time it would seem perfectly placed for the introduction of hydrogen trains as they operate best on short stretches of the network that have not been converted to electric.  Initially they could avoid Waverley as well if some of the other suburban lines had passenger traffic reintroduced.

A trial involving hydrogen powered trains could happen in the Liverpool area in late 2019 or early 2020 so the technology is coming.  This particular trial is likely to be carried out on a restored section of track near Frodsham in Cheshire, making possible a new hourly service between Liverpool and Chester.

While the ESSR remains very much in use today for freight traffic and as a diversionary route, avoiding Waverley and Haymarket stations, the number of trains is relatively low e.g. a typical week could see 15 trains on a Monday, 14 trains on a Tuesday, 16 trains on a Wednesday, 23 on a Thursday, 2 trains on a Friday, 2 trains on a Saturday and 3 trains on a Sunday. Included in those weekly numbers were around 20 Hitachi diesel trains pulling 6 empty carriages each – this appears to be test runs of some sort and has been going on for over 2 years.  Take those trains away and you are down to about 55 train journeys a week.

Edinburgh has the capacity and potential in terms of operative, redundant and defunct railway lines to develop another transport network that would not only be effective , integrate well with other transport providers but be eco friendly as well.  People from all avenues of transport really need to sit down together and see what can be done collectively to help tackle  pollution and congestion in the city.

Thoughts in 2018 included a 1st phase proposal to utilise existing single and double operational lines to form 3 “Edinburgh Overground” routes around Edinburgh using some existing suburban and other operational lines, along with 18 station stops and at least one depot. Of the 20 stations 4 are currently operational, 8 are previous station sites and 8 would be new sites.

For the record, the 4 operational sites are Brunstane, Haymarket, Slateford and Waverley, 8 previous stations are Blackford, Craiglockhart, Duddingston Craigmillar, Easter Road, Morningside, Newington, Powderhall and Shrubill (Leith Walk) and the 8 new stations would be at Dock, Gorgie, Holyrood Queens, Meadowbank, Portobello, Seafield, Seafield East and Slateford.  Depots could be located at Seafield, Slateford or Portobello.  This exercise is all about making use of what you have got and what you can realistically do with it, at reasonable cost, given the financial constraints around us today.  The potential first phase of the proposed  Edinburgh Overground network will not only encompass  existing sections of operational single and double track it could initially use existing diesel electric trains, the challenge being to make the diesels run cleaner, possibly by extra filtration when operating in these urban areas, until another cleaner power source is identified and introduced.   These new routes will include some of the existing operational rail network infrastructure, resurrect some defunct lines and previous station sites and create new ones as well.

For more information on the above paragraph see also “Potential 1st Phase of Proposed Network (2018)”, “Details of 1st Phase Edinburgh Overground Station Sites (May 2018)” and “Management of Edinburgh Overground and Quick Facts (2018)”.

A note of caution – while this seems an eminently rational and considered way to take matters forward there must be concerns over the viability and continued operation and indeed retention of two of the existing operational lines.  The line to Powderhall which leaves the East Coast Mainline Railway at Restalrig, takes in Meadowbank, Easter Road, Shrubhill (Leith Walk) and Powderhall (see latest news article September 2018).

Line from Easter Road towards Leith Walk at Shrubhill
Line from Easter Road (Junction) to Crawford Bridge

The line to Leith Docks which leaves the East Coast Mainline Railway at Portobello (near Sir Harry Lauder Road), takes in all of Seafield and then Leith Docks.

Line heading to Leith Docks between Meadows Yard Local Nature Reserve and Seafield Way
Line approaching Leith Docks from Seafield Road East

See also secondary menu in left sidebar for more pictures i.e. pictures of old railway formations / ESSR and other operational heavy rail lines. 

These lines have tremendous potential for passenger traffic if they became part of a new and additional network of routes and stations along with a revived South Suburban Railway and all its strategic station sites to complement existing transport provision in Edinburgh.

Unfortunately it appears that these two lines could become defunct, like many others have done in the past, due to lack of business-related activity.   Regrettably the Powderhall Waste Transfer Station has already ceased operations and the site is now closed (May 2018).  Edinburgh needs these lines and another new transport network in place to ensure that the very few active lines left in and around Edinburgh are preserved and earmarked  for this proposed network of functional train links. 

The Waverley Line is leaving on the right near the Millerhill Yard, heading for Shawfair Station

Historically Edinburgh had a significant and widespread railway network, which was admired by many and it made a  major contribution to fulfilling a lot of local transport needs.  On a world scale, Edinburgh  is very much up there in terms of architecture and has a captivating urban landscape.  It has been a top festival city for many decades and visitor numbers are rising considerably year on year.  The population is growing as well (both in the city and urban), so the city does need another more wide-ranging solution to complement existing transport provision.

A dramatic view of the railway lines in Princes Street Gardens

The Edinburgh Light Railway Company Limited (referred to as  ELR in this website) was incorporated as a Company in June 2007 to investigate the possibility  of a sustainable, integrated and competent light rail transport system for Edinburgh and its environs.

The Author’s Background

As mentioned in the opening section “A New Concept to Consider” one of the reasons for not publishing the ELR proposals in 2007 was that decisions on other proposed schemes were imminent and there was no point in complicating matters further. At the end of the day the now revised ELR scheme remains robust and people should have the opportunity to comment. The other pertinent reason was that at the time in 2007 I was working in the Transport Policy and Strategy Division at the Scottish Government, having worked for a good number of years previously in the Roads and Transport Division. This was perhaps a bit close to home and I sensibly waited until I took early retirement in 2010 before picking up the pieces again. It can be quite time consuming continually having to check on planning applications and often necessary to change your plans. However, I was always going to wait and see if the Waverley line re-opened and if so see what effect that would have on the defunct formations in the south east area of Edinburgh.

In this website there is information on specific topics for both 2007, an updated version for 2016 (in some cases that only amounts to minor changes) and 2017 and 2018, with other pieces of information that are more general and cover the whole period :-

On the main menu:-

  • Home Page & Navigation ;
  • A New Concept to Consider;
  • The Thinking behind the ELR in 2007 ;
  • The ELR at the Beginning in 2007 ;
  • The ELR Today in 2018;
  • Introduction and Background 2007 ;
  • Map 1.3 (2007) Edinburgh City;
  • Map 1.5 (2007) Combined Infographic;
  • Inverkeithing to Airport and Edinburgh Including the ESSR (2007);
  • Introduction and Background 2016 ;
  • Map 1.3 (2016) Edinburgh City;
  • Map 1.5 (2016) Combined Infographic;
  • Interaction Between Heavy and light Rail;
  • The World is Our Oyster? ;
  • Trams on Wrong Tracks? ; 
  • Trails and Rails;
  • Edinburgh City combined Route Map 1.3C (2017);
  • Map 1.6 CITY (2017) Edinburgh Existing Operational Lines;
  • Potential 1st Phase of Proposed Edinburgh Overground Network (May 2018);
  • Details of 1st Phase Edinburgh Overground Station Sites (May 2018);
  • Management of “Edinburgh Overground” and Quick Facts (2018); and
  • Just One Sonetto.

On the right hand menu:-



  • Stations Checklist 2007
  • Stations Checklist 2016
  • List of Stations, Lines and Destinations (2007)
  • List of Stations, Lines and Destinations (2016)
  • Further Information on Stations 2007
  • Further Information on Stations 2016
  • Land and Operational Lines that would be Utilised (2007)
  • Land and Operational Lines that would be Utilised (2016)
  • Routes of Proposed Lines 2007
  • Routes of Proposed Lines 2016
  • Stakeholders
  • Outline Proposal
  • Thoughts about the need for good Urban transport
  • Inverkeithing to Airport, Edinburgh and ESSR
  • Other potential Light Rail Routes around Edinburgh
  • Interaction between Heavy and Light Rail
  • Conclusions
  • Executive Summary
  • FAQ’s




While a few selected maps are shown for ease of reference on the Home Page and Navigation menu, the full series of maps and diagrams are contained on the left side menu.  These show the various routes, interchanges and lines that were proposed both in 2007, 2016 and the diagrams associated with the three suburban lines being promoted in 2018:-

Map 1.1 (2007) Fife to West Edinburgh;
Map 1.1 (2016) Fife to West Edinburgh;
Map 1.2 (2007) West and South West Edinburgh;
Map 1.2 (2016) West and South West Edinburgh;
Map 1.3 (2007) Edinburgh City;
Map 1.3 (2016) Edinburgh City;                                                                        Map 1.3 C (2017) Edinburgh City Combined Route Map;

Map 1.4 (2007) Edinburgh East to South East;
Map 1.4 (2016) Edinburgh East to South East;
Map 1.5 (2007) Combined Route Infographic;
Map 1.5 (2016) Combined Route Infographic;

10 Meadowbank Station Diagram;

19 Seafield Depot Diagram;

20 Slateford Depot Diagram; and

24 Portobello Depot Diagram.




Contact Info:-

Name, Address and Registered Office: Douglas Forson, 6 Relugas Gardens, Grange, Edinburgh EH9 2PU.

Email Address: elrcl@blueyonder.co.uk

See also Terms and Conditions of Use

© 2018 Edinburgh Light Railway Company Limited. All Rights Reserved.