Outturn capital costs for any system type varies across schemes and costs can be much more dependent on things such as construction, disruption, utility diversions, special structures or earthworks. Indeed, the attractiveness of the off-road routes for the light rail train solution in this proposal is that the vast majority of the construction work is also off-road so disturbance and disruption to road traffic would be minimal.
Edinburgh is fortunate to have so many redundant railway corridor formations traversing the city and its environs and it would be incomprehensible not to incorporate these strategic links in any integrated transport solution – this light rail train solution would satisfy that prerequisite. One of the most important aspects at this time, while consideration is being given to this solution, is to make sure that the legacy of those railway formations and other land that has remained redundant for many years and which is vital to the expectations of this solution, are not totally lost to other developments.
Any network has to provide as comprehensive a service as it can over as large an area as possible. It has to be honest and rational and think about mass transit – this light rail train solution would benefit a much larger percentage of the population over a wider area. With many of the proposed stations sharing multiple routes the target would be to achieve sufficient frequency of service, even if transfers have to be made, to enable rapid movement between destinations. The light rail train vehicles, apart from good visibility, would be designed, as you would expect in the current climate, to provide a very sustainable option for travellers.
Do not lose sight of the reasons why you need such an all-embracing system in the first place and whether what you are planning in terms of further reducing the need for cars and car journeys will achieve what you are actually setting out to do. This light rail train solution aims to achieve those objectives by providing the necessary links as part of a comprehensive network of strategic routes and interchanges.
An abundance of additional road restrictions and traffic regulations in Edinburgh is increasing congestion and reducing the areas available for free parking in the city and suburban areas, yet nothing coherent is being planned or being provided as an alternative means of transport, to adequately fill that gap apart from Park and Ride and while extremely useful, they are by their very nature generally located outwith or close to the city boundary. This proposal is very well placed to provide a choice for the car user by providing strategic transport links to and from central Edinburgh, the suburban areas, the park and ride sites (including a proposed one at Portobello), the outskirts and outlying areas.
Edinburgh has an excellent and expansive bus network which provides bus services in the city, to outlying suburbs, towns and villages within the region, as well as park and ride links and Edinburgh Airport services. Similarly and irrespective of the types of any future transport provision in the city the focus for bus services would be to provide appropriate additional routes to link to another transport networks. This is all about joined up transport in Edinburgh (JUTIE) so that travellers have a choice as to the mode of travel which best suits their needs.
The starting point for solving local transport problems is identifying an effective overall solution – it is clear that the robustness of this light rail train proposal offers many answers, especially the ability to attract passengers from across the city and most significant of all, providing the necessary integrated linkages to give the customer confidence to travel on a very user friendly and effective means of transport.
Re-opening the Edinburgh South Suburban Railway (ESSR) to passenger traffic has been looked at before but despite the various challenges issued on numerous occasions over the years to make it work, no feasible options were arrived at or taken forward. The new lines and the routes included in this light rail train solution would it seems offer the mechanisms to make the reintroduction of passenger traffic on the ESSR succeed.
While this proposed solution is at a relatively early stage in planning terms, it is nevertheless a far-reaching, thorough, uncomplicated and yet robust set of proposals, which have been nurtured over a number of years and could be implemented in the near future. This solution will actually meet head-on many of the transport congestion problems in and around Edinburgh today. Most pleasing of all about the construction of the light rail train solution is that, despite a fairly extensive area, it would not create delays or cause disruption problems that on-road proposals often bring to their chosen routes.
There is no doubt the business and retail sectors would benefit greatly from the light rail train solution. On the basis that the light rail train system is intended to offer many interconnecting routes, then the amount of passengers and income generated could be significant. The ground is there, a lot of the rail lines are there, so the backbone of the light rail train network could be launched and up and running relatively quickly, with the other routes coming on stream at staged intervals. The important point really being that construction of the spine of the network could provide fairly immediate benefits. The full benefits being achieved when all the other routes are constructed and they come on stream.
Overall, the light rail train solution would seem to suggest that it would be much less expensive than for example further tram construction and more attractive in comparative terms to customers because of integration and the delivery of a more comprehensive package of routes across a network. A positive transport future in Edinburgh and its environs could be achieved with investment in this light rail train solution. The needs of the long suffering inhabitants of Edinburgh and its surrounding area deserve better recognition than they have received to date and their requirements have been taken into consideration in the planning of this proposal.
There is no doubt that there is a big public transport market still to be captured in Edinburgh to provide alternative travel solutions to a large and often disillusioned market. There is no doubt that there are companies who will have to rely in the future on new transport initiatives performing efficiently and effectively, to service the needs of both employees and customers. In terms of the potential benefits of such a solution to travellers and the likely cost ratios the opportunity surely exists for transportation planning and delivery organisations to work much closer together to achieve the desired result. Investment in this light rail train solution should be viewed in a positive way, not only in terms of construction and customer satisfaction, but potential passenger numbers, value for money, reduction in congestion and car use and therefore a very sustainable way forward.
There still appears to be a real lack of understanding of what is required to both alleviate the current situation regarding congestion and car use and build for the future. It seems that it is not really those spinal routes through the centre of Edinburgh that necessarily have major problems to address apart from perhaps a reduction in the number of vehicles that use them and whether further investment in mainly on-road solutions will actually achieve a much improved service for travellers. A number of the routes in this light rail train solution demonstrate the role of connectivity plans in the integration of public transport. Many cities have identified the need to improve public transport connections, better traveller experience, reliability, reduced travel time, minimal waiting time and how these difficulties need to be overcome.
Transport integration seeks to facilitate multi-modal, multi-operator journeys, the organisation of services into a network, along with a rational system of routes, fares, timetables. At this stage of the proceedings with the light rail train proposal in its infancy, planners would need to seek public input as well as the support of other transport operators.
Although carried out before, it would make some sense to arrange train tours on a few of the heavy rail operational lines available around Edinburgh, especially the ESSR, to give people an opportunity and an experience to see for themselves the scope for and the foundations under which a light rail train network would operate along with a sense of the potential benefits of such a system.
A radical change in view is required and an acceptance that such a solution makes a lot of sense and if a light rail train network proposal were to be taken forward, it should be evaluated with due diligence.
A coherent approach to this proposal is required to consider a vision that can be turned into a reality, a ground-breaking scheme – this light rail train network would be unique to Edinburgh, fit for purpose and attractive to commuters and tourists alike, leading to a congestion-busting solution.
While it is important to establish a viable solution for the future, this proposal is certainly open to further change, so there is scope to consider alternatives, as has been brought about by other potential developments on land already earmarked for this proposal around Edinburgh that have received planning approval over recent years, although it is hoped that the basic principles of the design can be maintained. In some cases it can be done by minor adjustments or at worst, realignment or removing various routes.
In the worst case scenarios so far for example, the new realigned section of the Waverley Line at Shawfair Station and a significant housing development at Shawfair/Danderhall required a number of adjustments and the realignment of lines. The latest in August 2016 required representations to be made to Edinburgh City Council regarding a planning application to build 450 houses in Leith Docks. This was because the application materially affected one of the main proposed routes in this location – as of the beginning of March 2017 the application is still being assessed and no further contact has been forthcoming apart from the original acknowledgement.
Key drivers of the light rail train solution are social inclusion and community accessibility, where it is anticipated that benefits will be felt along all the routes. Take into account developments in technology and the legacy of those railway formations that are potentially available, then you have the capacity for such a network.
This solution will require sustained effort by all the delivery agencies – national, regional and local – to ensure that the reasonable expectations of transport users, residents and businesses are met. It does beg the question as to why the light rail train idea was not considered earlier as an option to take forward when you think what it has potentially to offer.