EXECUTIVE SUMMARY (2017)
A Strategic Light Rail Train Transport Solution for Edinburgh
– The Edinburgh Light Railway Company Limited –
This summary document conveys the most fundamental and straightforward ambitions that need to be at the heart of any transport system in Edinburgh for getting people from A to B:-
– Its about “Joined Up Transport in Edinburgh (JUTIE)”
– Its about “Making a Transport System Fit for Purpose in Edinburgh”
– Its about “Getting Edinburgh Working Again”
– Its about “Reducing the number of Vehicles on Edinburgh’s Roads”
– Its about “Reducing Carbon Emissions”
– Its about “Value for Money”
Edinburgh has a relatively poor transportation infrastructure in terms of a network of strategic links and is losing its ability to compete with comparable cities across Europe. The thoughts of those impressive thinkers that emerged in Edinburgh during the Enlightenment established this city as we know it today. Equally, could those same thoughts and ideals that emerged then also provide the answers to our transport planning and provision at the present time? If there is a parallel that can be drawn with the way we shape transport in our city today perhaps it is because we often take a very self-centred approach. It seems strange that with all this history behind us that a visionary blueprint for transport in and around Edinburgh could not have been drawn up more collectively not only for the foreseeable future but for decades to come that would have been pioneering as well as effective.
The tram proposal clearly did not have universal support and will not on its own solve the congestion problems in Edinburgh. That is not to say that the tram will not attract passengers on the York Place to Edinburgh Airport route, but, it will still have to compete with what has been seen as a very lucrative succession of bus service routes in this corridor over the years. However, taking into consideration proportionality, the tram will only offer a limited service to the people of Edinburgh and its environs. Transport disorder is not only an aggravation for commuters; it stops the progress of economic performance. A great opportunity to create a more meaningful transport system for Edinburgh has largely been ignored. The amount of money spent on the trams equates to a very expensive status symbol when the money could have been better utilised on an alternative and more extensive transport solution. Sadly, public investment on the scale allocated to the tram scheme is also unlikely to be available again to the City of Edinburgh for decades to come.
However, a great opportunity still exists to revolutionise transport in Edinburgh which has to date not been recognised. It would be virtually off-road, so no construction congestion, it would provide a substantial network of routes to alleviate a lot of Edinburgh’s transport problems, it would make a big contribution to removing pressure and congestion on roads, it would be environmentally friendly, it would utilise the Edinburgh South Suburban Railway (ESSR), it would utilise other existing operational, new, unused and redundant railway lines, it would probably need private funding and revenue reinvestment and it would deliver a high-quality integrated transport system.
The Edinburgh Light Railway Company Limited website explains in some detail how it would operate – the concept can be viewed at www.elrcl.co.uk
It would be fair to say that in trying to improve the carbon footprint in Edinburgh over recent years various transport related schemes have been introduced. Some schemes have been more successful than others, but it would also be fair to say that overall, the situation on the roads is not improving and congestion increases unabated. Life for the car user in Edinburgh is more restrictive than ever yet they feel they have to keep on coming in greater numbers than ever and our environment suffers even more. That means basically that alternative forms of road transport are either unsuccessful, available, attractive or convenient enough to allow a lot of car users to change the way they travel.
If you are looking for a solution to such a problem then surely it would seem logical to consider the numerous rail corridors that straddle the city, operational or otherwise and whether such a resource could deliver an effective network of links across the city.
The congestion problems in Edinburgh cannot be solved in isolation, so the proposed reopening of the Edinburgh South Suburban Railway (ESSR) to passenger traffic, as one single heavy rail option on its own and the reintroduction of the trams as another, is clearly not the long term solution because the congestion experienced in Edinburgh on a daily basis today, is much more widespread than these options could ever hope to resolve on their own. Indeed, in terms of the ESSR, none of the conclusions or recommendations contained in the review and option analysis report of 2004 carried out on behalf of the City of Edinburgh Council, were taken forward. Of course, enhancing the capacity of Waverley station would make the ESSR more feasible. The main aim of that study was to ascertain whether lessons could be learned from the success of the Edinburgh Cross Rail which was introduced in 2002. Where are we now 13 years on from that report and with revamped and upgraded stations at Waverley and Haymarket?
This light rail train proposal came about because there is a very persuasive argument and recognition to find a way to incorporate the ESSR, along with other existing operational, new, unused and redundant railway lines, in any proposal to create a network of links. These off-road transport corridors in and around Edinburgh should be made use of as they are a very valuable and inclusive asset, which will not only create a successful light rail train network but also the means for giving passengers real travel options, whether it be for business, leisure or for tourism pursuits. As major cities expand, the demand for high capacity public transport vehicles, offering convenient, comfortable and effective mobility expands as well. Surely the argument put forward for investing money in such a network is so that you are able to provide more capacity, more efficiently, more effectively and in very sustainable way and deliver the right infrastructure both for customers and for essential renewal and economic aspirations. Common sense would suggest that many new developments are on the periphery. It is clear that the light rail train proposal will have the ability to deliver a high-quality integrated transport system across the city and with many interconnecting routes planned over a wide geographical spread it will provide joined up transport in Edinburgh (JUTIE) and its environs.
Edinburgh is fortunate to have so many redundant and unused transport corridor resources traversing the city. Logic would propose that the transport priority should be to make the best use of these existing metropolitan corridors, not only to get Edinburgh working again but to provide a system fit for purpose. From a financial planning point of view it would be incomprehensible not to consider and incorporate these strategic corridors in any integrated transport proposal – this light rail train solution satisfies that precondition.
There is no doubt that all sectors would benefit greatly from the light rail train solution. It was originally estimated by TIE (then Transport Initiatives Edinburgh from 2002 to 2011) that there would be 11 to 13 million tram passengers by 2011 for routes 1a (Edinburgh Airport to Newhaven) and 1b (Haymarket to Granton) – of course only Edinburgh Airport to York Place was built. While construction began in 2008, that tram route was not opened until 2014 after project revisions and delays, contractual disputes, funding crisis, criticism from businesses who claimed their income was damaged by long-term road closures in the centre of the city, a number of residents and cycling groups over safety concerns.
On the basis that the light rail train network would ultimately offer many interconnecting routes, then the amount of passengers and income generated could be significantly greater than the trams. The ground is there, a lot of the rail lines are there, so the backbone of the light rail train network could be up and running relatively quickly, reinvesting revenue, until all the other routes are constructed and come on stream.
There is no doubt that there is a big market still to be captured. There is no doubt that there are some big companies out there who rely on good links to perform efficiently, effectively and profitably. There is no doubt that there are some big transportation players out there who may willingly view this light rail train solution as an investment opportunity to provide an alternative and profitable travel solution to a potentially massive and often disenchanted market.
There still appears to be a real lack of understanding of what is required to both alleviate the current situation and build for the future. It is not that part of the spinal route through the centre of Edinburgh occupied by the tram line that has a problem to address. A radical change in view is required, it is not too late to make a light rail train network happen, this solution makes a lot of sense and should be evaluated with due diligence.
For ease of reference you should consider this summary along with the Executive Summary Combined Infographic Map 1.5 (ES 2016)