31 March 2021
Comments to Transport Scotland by 31st March 2021 on Phase 2 of the second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2).
I note Phase 2 of the second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2) will report later in 2021 and will inform the Scottish Government’s future investment plans and spending reviews to help inform transport investment in Scotland for the next 20 years.
I also note that as an Edinburgh resident that the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) is considering another huge extension to the capital’s tram network.
The CEC plans echo a lot of what is contained in the Scottish STPR2 report for Edinburgh that was published by Transport Scotland (TS) on 3rd February 2021.
TS features mass transit routes amongst 20 major project priorities and could be run by trams or buses on dedicated lanes. The initial focus by TS for Edinburgh is also on delivering mass transit from the north of the city (Granton), through the city centre to the south and east extremities of the city boundary. Of course CEC are also very enthusiastic on the idea of the expansion of rapid mass transit and they look forward to working with TS to progress their recommendations, which they say will benefit the city.
TS say that further extensions could result in increasing frequency of mass transit services to Edinburgh from neighbouring local authorities, or introducing a south suburban railway within the city and a cross-Forth light rail transit system to Fife.
TS said trams which can run on rail lines, and trains, are both being explored for the Edinburgh South Suburban Railway (ESSR) route. That would seem to suggest that since the thought of introducing trams or passenger trains on the ESSR is clearly on the agenda then the thinking there must be that a perceived capacity to introduce them exists.
The TS study also said there was a lack of orbital routes, which limited connections to Edinburgh Airport, the Gyle, the Royal Infirmary and the Bio Quarter.
I am glad to note that STPR2 is expected to place the Edinburgh South Suburban Railway (ESSR) line high on the list of potential projects. Yet it seems that most of the Councillors on the CEC Transport and Environment Committee would rather control their own tram line ambitions at local taxpayers expense rather than work in conjunction with the relevant organisations that would not only build and fund the ESSR, but, would maintain it in the future as well. A few of the Edinburgh Councillors did apparently table amendments to support the development of the ESSR line as a contender business case to the north to south and east trams.
Given a slightly different scenario, it is not unreasonable to think that the ESSR could be up and running with passenger traffic in about 5 years time.
I personally don’t think that a huge expansion to the tram network in Edinburgh will achieve the desired objectives.
My interest firmly lies with the reopening of the ESSR to passenger traffic and in particular an “Inner Edinburgh Orbital Network” amounting to three routes as part of a new “Edinburgh Overground” proposal which is currently being promoted amongst other things by the Edinburgh Light Railway Company Limited (ELRCL) website www.elrcl.co.uk , for which I am custodian. If this proposal was to be adopted then you would also have another network of routes that would integrate well with other transport providers across the city with the likelihood it would be constructed and completed at a sensible cost to taxpayers.
The idea being that this proposal would use diesel electric trains initially and thereafter environmentally friendly power units, such as those powered by hydrogen or new battery technologies which are already here and being further developed. Coincidently, two new rail passenger schemes announced in January 2021 by the UK Government are going to be operated in this way thus avoiding the need for overhead electrification altogether – this might have something to do with cost and therefore the viability of these schemes going ahead or not. It is more likely that the UK Government needs to push ahead with this particular new technology (initially for passenger trains) and has decided that these two new links fit in well with their aspirations and timetable. Clearly further investment will be needed to develop the technology significantly to also enable more powerful non-diesel or non-overhead electric units to operate heavy freight trains in the future.
TS would have to electrify the ESSR for trams to run on these rail lines. Running heavyweight and lightweight vehicles on the ESSR sounds a bit chaotic, especially if the trams will not be able to use Waverley or Haymarket Stations as has been stipulated. On the face of it this would appear to involve 4 crossovers of the 5 lines west of Haymarket Station from or to the existing tram line in either direction to join the suburban line at Haymarket Central Junction, whereas a hydrogen powered train could simply utilise 2 lines and 1 crossover. At Waverley Station heavyweight ESSR trains would operate normally, whereas trams would have to find a new link to the east to get back on the ESSR. The ELRCL has already suggested a tram extension from the London Road roundabout to Meadowbank which would seem a more sensible route for the tram to take rather than Waterloo Place / Regent Road before making another rail connection.
The advantage with hydrogen or new battery technology trains is that they have no restrictions in terms of the type of lines they can operate on although the ESSR is ideally suited.
After all the improvements in recent years, especially to Waverley, it would seem realistic to think that capacity may have been improved. Network Rail is also talking about the re-doubling of the Calton North Tunnel and remodelling of Waverley East approaches (as far as Portobello). This would appear to involve the reinstatement of the Abbeyhill Junction and Chord, joining with the Powderhall to Portobello line. It was also suggested that a new double lead junction at Portobello, would double the Portobello to Newcraighall line, including Brunstane Station. Of course these improvements, should they materialise would both complete and enhance a number of the old suburban routes – routes which are also included in the “Edinburgh Overground” proposals. In these proposals only one stop each way would be required at both Waverley and Haymarket Stations and no particular requirements as a terminus.
The ELRCL website home page mentions an opportunity for Scotland to be at the vanguard with this new technology which is now being developed here in the UK. In 2020 it was announced that the first low-carbon hydrogen energy production plants in the UK have been granted government funding – facilities at Stanlow Oil Refinery in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire and St Fergus Terminal in Aberdeenshire will produce hydrogen for manufacturing industries. Aberdeen has been selected as the home for the “world’s first” offshore floating facility to produce green hydrogen. The ground-breaking Dolphyn project will sit nine miles off the coast, allowing the UK to harness the power of the fuel using floating wind turbines. Surely the likes of the Ineos facility at Grangemouth which currently receives crude oil to then produce petrol, diesel, jet fuel and heating oils could develop a facility for hydrogen production by using wind power, solar power or water power given the future requirement for clean energy. The large-scale deployment of hydrogen production would launch the necessary and expected energy transition and having an established an adequate source in a centrally located facility such as the Grangemouth complex could allow this technology to be developed.
Finally and to summarise I think that TS should be making a statement for green energy by proposing the introduction of a suitable project for short-term delivery. The conversion of Class 321 electric trains for example to hydrogen operation, fitting hydrogen tanks and fuel cells to up cycle these trains will enable them to be reused in such a way as to create a product of higher quality or value than the original. The ESSR as an abandoned passenger line would therefore be perfectly placed for the early introduction of similar hydrogen trains as these lines could within a reasonable time period be returned to operational status.
12 February 2021
City of Edinburgh Council CEC) is considering another huge extension to the capital’s tram network. The plans show a north to south line, running from Granton Harbour and down to either Roseburn or Shandwick Place, on the existing central tram line. The line would then follow the existing city centre track, before turning south-east to the ERI and Bio Quarter. There are also plans for a mass transit network, including trams, extending west from the airport to West Lothian.
CEC plans to have a complete business case for the next tram extension by 2023, with a final business case set to be completed in 2025. Subject of course to approval, the council is aiming to have the north to south tram line, along with a westward expansion, completed by 2030. CEC say these plans would complement and integrate with the current bus, tram and rail networks.
The plans are included in The City Mobility Plan, which is due to be presented to a meeting of the Transport and Environment Committee on Friday 19 February 2021, when it is expected to be approved.
These plans echo a lot of what is contained in the Scottish Government’s Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2) report that was published by Transport Scotland (TS) on 3rd February 2021, where they are also very enthusiastic on the idea of the expansion of rapid mass transit? CEC say they look forward to working with TS to progress their recommendations, which they say will benefit the city.
TS features mass transit routes amongst 20 major project priorities and could be run by trams or buses on dedicated lanes. Previously in the Stenhouse and Broomhouse areas of Edinburgh an off-road dedicated bus way operated for five years before being converted into part of the city centre to airport tram line.
The initial focus by TS for Edinburgh is also on delivering mass transit from the north of the city (Granton), through the city centre to the south and east extremities of the city boundary. They say that further extensions could result in increasing frequency of mass transit services to Edinburgh from neighbouring local authorities, or introducing a south suburban railway within the city and a cross-Forth light rail transit system to Fife.
Transport Scotland said trams which can run on rail lines, and trains, are both being explored for the Edinburgh South Suburban Railway (ESSR) route.
The TS study also said there was a lack of orbital routes, which limited connections to Edinburgh Airport, the Gyle, the Royal Infirmary and the Bio Quarter. The review is the first part of a multi-stage process to decide Scotland’s transport spending priorities for the next 20 years.
STPR2 is expected to place the suburban line high on the list of potential projects. Yet it seems that most of the Councillors on the CEC Transport and Environment Committee would rather control their own tram line at taxpayers expense than work in conjunction with the relevant organisations that would not only build and fund the ESSR, but, would maintain it in the future as well. A few of the Councillors tabled amendments to support the (ESSR) line as a contender business case to the north to south tram. It is not unreasonable to think that the ESSR could be up and running with passenger traffic in about 5 years time and all this before any tram line commences construction, never mind raising the level of funding that would be required at a further cost to local taxpayers for few new routes.
CEC have said above that their plans would integrate well with other transport providers in the city. In the case of the ESSR and in particular the Edinburgh Light Railway Company, if all their “Edinburgh Overground” proposals for an “Inner Edinburgh Orbital Network” were adopted then you would also have another network of routes that would integrate well with other transport providers across the city with the likelihood it would be constructed and completed at a sensible cost to taxpayers.
The idea being that this proposal would use diesel electric trains initially and thereafter environmentally friendly power units, such as those powered by hydrogen or new battery technologies which are already here and being further developed. Coincidently, two new rail passenger schemes announced recently by the UK Government are going to be operated in this way thus avoiding the need for overhead electrification altogether – this might have something to do with cost and therefore the viability of these schemes going ahead or not. It is more likely that the UK Government needs to push ahead with this particular new technology (initially for passenger trains) and has decided that these two new links fit in well with their aspirations and timetable. Clearly further investment will be needed to develop the technology significantly to also enable more powerful non-diesel or non-overhead electric units to operate heavy freight trains in the future.
TS would have to electrify the ESSR for trams to run on these rail lines. Running heavyweight and lightweight vehicles on the ESSR sounds a bit chaotic, especially if the trams will not be able to use Waverley or Haymarket Stations as has been indicated. Electrification may have to happen anyway on the ESSR due to the freight and other types of trains that are planned to use the line in the future, not really for local traffic, rather for long haul diversionary purposes to avoid Waverley and Haymarket Stations.
The advantage with hydrogen or new battery technology trains is that they have no restrictions in terms of the lines they can operate on.
3 February 2021
Transport Scotland announced that they are currently undertaking the second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2) to inform the Scottish Government’s transport investment programme in Scotland over the next 20 years (2022 – 2042).
STPR2 takes a national overview of the transport network with a focus on regions and will help deliver the vision, priorities and outcomes that are set out in the new National Transport Strategy (NTS2).
STPR2 is the second “Strategic Transport Projects Review and is designed to protect our climate and improve our livelihood with investment focused on sustainable travel for a green recovery.
It seems that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, STPR2 will now be taking a two phased approach, with Phase 1 recommending progress on priority transport projects in the short-term i.e. 2 to 3 years – while Phase 2 will complete the STPR2 process and it will focus on the delivery of medium to longer-term schemes over the next two decades.
While Phase 2 will be completed later in 2021, the material published today provides an update on the work being carried at present to develop a 20-year investment plan for transport, including the transport options which will be appraised in detail this year.
Following publication of Phase 1, comments are being invited from stakeholders and the public until close of play on 31 March 2021.
Included in the Phase 1 recommendations for rail investment in the short-term includes improving accessibility at train stations, supporting the transition to low carbon transport, with investment in alternative fuels and progression of decarbonisation of rail and enabling larger loads to be carried on the railway network, encouraging more freight to shift from road to rail transport.
For rail to be considered one of the greenest forms of public transport a target has been set is to decarbonise railways in Scotland by 2035. Of course to make such a scenario possible and to encourage members of the public to use these greener forms of transport will not only involve more investment, more development of new greener technologies and a more widespread network of suitable routes.
For Edinburgh in relation to the possible future of reopening the Edinburgh South Suburban Railway (ESSR) line it is worth noting that the report says in addition to better performance, other enhancements in and around Edinburgh Waverley will enable a more frequent and reliable train service to operate, contributing to sustainable modal shift. Does that not suggest that after all the improvements that have been carried out at Waverley Station over recent years, there is some spare capacity available which for example could accommodate ESSR traffic, were it reopened?
Also mentioned for was Edinburgh Mass Transit as an enhanced level of public transport provision in the city region, including Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Tram. It was stated that this would complement and integrate with the current bus, tram and heavy rail networks, providing improved connectivity. Of course at this time this the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) are leading on this through their Edinburgh Strategic Sustainable Transport Study Phase 2 with the initial focus on delivering mass transit connectivity from the north of the city (Granton), through the city centre to the south/east extremities of the city boundary. In Phase 1 of STPR2 the focus is very much on why the Edinburgh region would benefit from such mass transit connectivity. It is stated that further extension of these routes could result in increasing frequency of mass transit services to Edinburgh from neighbouring local authorities, or introducing a south suburban railway i.e. ESSR within the city and a cross-Forth Light Rail Transit system to Fife.
Looking at recent UK Government announcements, such as the Northumbrian Line and the completion of the Oxford to Cambridge link (see Latest News on this website dated 23 January 2021), it appears that more pragmatic solutions are already being sought using hydrogen power or new battery technology and the reopening of the ESSR to passenger traffic could easily follow in this way as that route is ideally suited for such a development.
Transport Scotland agrees that hydrogen and battery powered trains are the way forward as being ‘self-powered’ reduces the required infrastructure investment, although infrastructure to support charging and fuelling would still be required. These technologies, particularly hydrogen, are currently expensive and limited in power output and performance. However, green hydrogen could be produced overnight in Scotland from wind and water power. Of course, further electrification of lines and the cost that goes with it will also still be required to meet overall targets. It would be helpful to know if, when and how hydrogen could be produced in the central belt, where usage would be greatest.
In general, a “mass transit” route that could be run by trams or buses on dedicated lanes features among Transport Scotland’s 20 major project priorities. As mentioned in Edinburgh it would link Granton with the city centre and the south east of the capital, following the path of formerly-planned routes. A line between the northern suburb and Princes Street via Roseburn was abandoned when Edinburgh’s tram scheme went massively over budget. Another, south from Princes Street past Edinburgh University to the south east was also ditched. Transport Scotland said the line could be followed by re-opening of the south suburban rail line, which is used by freight trains. Transport Scotland also said trams which can run on rail lines, and trains, are both being explored for the ESSR route although they would have to avoid Haymarket and Waverley Stations.
This all sounds rather chaotic from the powers that be and given that the CEC does not have a very good track record in delivering transport projects this next investment programme over the next 20 years has to deliver significant and meaningful projects, both for the environment and for the population.
23 January 2021
It was announced by the UK Government that funding of £794m will be made available for the East West Rail Line (EWRL) to complete the construction of the Oxford to Cambridge link by 2030 (opening new parts of the line and revamping other defunct sections) and for the Northumberland Line (NL) to reintroduce passenger trains on the existing Ashington to Newcastle freight line by 2024 – the NL closed to passengers in 1964, while services were withdrawn on the EWRL route in 1967 (only the Bletchley to Bedford section remained open for passenger traffic). The UK Government considers these lines as prime candidates for restoring passenger services, which it is hoped will provide vital connectivity, attracting businesses to those areas on the route and unlocking access to jobs, education and housing.
You may well wonder why this article has been placed on the ELRCL website. Well, there are many similarities especially between the Edinburgh South Suburban Railway (ESSR) and the NL as both are currently freight lines, they are not electrified and do not carry passenger traffic. On the other hand, while the completion of the EWRL will apparently involve using some older existing lines, some disused sections of rail line, it will also require an entirely new length of rail line to be built – the whole line built also to a standard suitable for freight trains as it is expected to be fully utilised for that purpose.
What is really interesting about this announcement is that the UK Government have said that diesel electric units will initially be used on the NL and EWRL routes, although in the future the plan is to use more environmentally friendly power units, such as those powered by hydrogen or new battery technologies. Intriguingly, in their words, the reason behind this is that the lines could avoid the need for overhead electrification altogether. Of course in the longer term while those new power units would stay a constant for passenger trains, if the much heavier freight trains continued to use the NL and were introduced on the EWRL it would require this technology to develop significantly to enable more powerful non-diesel or non-overhead electric units to operate on them.
However, in common with the much bigger EWRL project, electrification is only a passive provision for the NL which means that works would be done in such a way that they made allowances for electrification by not adding any obstacles that would obstruct this in the future.
The rational behind reopening these two lines, closed to passenger traffic for many years, will in particular help to reconnect communities. Both lines will be upgraded to mixed traffic status, and regain a passenger connection for the first time in over five and a half decades. The UK government has allocated £34m for preliminary works to bring the NL up to specification. Re-introducing passenger services on the NL, means that the project will eventually provide 6 new stations at Ashington, Bedlington, Blyth Bebside, Newsham, Seaton Delaval and Northumberland Park (on the Tyne and Wear Metro), in North Tyneside, with the final overall cost being about £162m.
On the EWRL £760m has been allocated for the delivery of the next phase of the Oxford to Cambridge link and has provision for a new station south of St Neots (near Tempsford) and at Cambourne and the construction of a new station at Winslow, as well as enhancements to existing stations along the route, including Bletchley.
While in general the news on the new EWRL was welcomed, the two local Oxford MPs were critical of the decision not to electrify the line and experienced rail experts will tell you that it costs more to electrify if lines are revisited for that purpose at a later date. Of course, in these times of climate change emergencies why would the UK Government not consider moving to a more environmentally sustainable mode straight away? Perhaps the cost of electrification is a factor in the passenger lines being viable in terms of the investment. Maybe the thinking is that since the UK government plans to phase out diesel electric trains by 2040 anyway they envisage that this new technology will be up and running and available sooner rather than later.
The ELRCL has been advocating the reopening of the ESSR to passenger traffic for some 14 years and initially supported the continued use of existing diesel electric passenger trains, rather than electrification. In recent years however the ELRCL has also been suggesting the use of hydrogen powered trains, because that technology is now here and operating in England on a trial basis in the Liverpool area. It is hoped that this particular trial will lead to a new hourly service between Liverpool and Chester as early as 2021.
It is all about timing and it can be no coincidence that the UK Government has decided that the NL and EWRL are well placed to take forward these hydrogen or new battery technologies. In fact a universal common sense approach to sustainable green energy solutions and the current hydrogen evolution approach are now accepted as one way forward to deliver new or for the upgrading of existing strategic transport links and other infrastructure projects. Such passenger trains are already in service in Germany. It is worth noting that the first low-carbon hydrogen energy plants in the UK have been granted government funding to produce hydrogen for innovative manufacturing purposes and more are in the pipeline and no coincidence that one is being established at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire.
Obviously having this endorsement from the UK Government that the NL and EWRL passenger scheme projects can be delivered without electrification would suggest that the current ELRCL hydrogen power thinking being explored for the ESSR project falls into this same category. Of course hydrogen powered trains can without any difficulty operate on tracks where overhead electrification has been introduced, just like diesel electric trains can, so the potential for hydrogen trains is enormous.
The current new generation of hydrogen powered trains will be classed as heavyweight, as initially at least in the UK, many will be converted from Class 321 electric trains to hydrogen operation, fitting hydrogen tanks and fuel cells to upcycle these trains i.e. reuse in such a way as to create a product of higher quality or value than the original. The ESSR and other abandoned Edinburgh suburban lines would therefore be perfectly placed for the early introduction of similar hydrogen trains as these lines could within a reasonable time period be returned to operational status.
Looking at the NL in relation to the ESSR and as a simple comparison you could initially build six revamped / rebuilt stations at Craiglockhart, Morningside, Blackford, Newington and Duddingston Craigmillar and utilise the existing ones at Brunstane (connects with Borders Railway), Waverley and Haymarket a distance of 12.5 miles – not bad to start hydrogen powered passenger trains with and in comparison with the NL price wise, this one circular route of the ELRCL “Edinburgh Overground” proposal could come in at around £135m!
It will be interesting to see what the second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2) which is prepared by Transport Scotland to inform the Scottish Government’s transport investment programme in Scotland over the next 20 years (2022 – 2042) contains. It will no doubt mention hydrogen power and other new battery technologies as the way forward, but, will it commit to any actual schemes or projects or plans for the production of said hydrogen, battery development, train conversions or trials?
19 November 2020
The City of Edinburgh Council has been re-evaluating the tram extension project as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. A report on 13 November concluded that the financial impact of cancelling the Edinburgh tram extension to Leith/Newhaven would almost certainly be greater than allowing it to carry on because of the impact on Council reserves, if the project was cancelled, as this would be greater than continuing with construction. In reaching this conclusion the Council judge that it is essential to measure the probable economic and financial impacts of such an important transport infrastructure scheme, providing sustainable, low-carbon travel to one of the most densely populated areas of Edinburgh.
The effect over a large part of this year of the ongoing pandemic has obviously had an exceptional influence on all modes of transport and will continue to do so for some time to come. However, the Council feel that the delivery of this tram project is fundamental for the green recovery and achieving their net zero carbon plan by 2030. The Council are therefore cautiously optimistic having now confirmed that progress with construction will continue.
Edinburgh Council considered the final business case and on Thursday 19 November 2020 voted whether or not to continue the project. Councillors decided to approve the continued construction of the tram line extension to Newhaven after hearing the final business case for the project, which reflected the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
While the first and most optimistic scenario assumes that demand for the central tram line returns to pre-covid levels by 2022, and demand for journeys to the airport returns by 2023, the fourth and most pessimistic scenario projects a drop in demand of just 20 per cent in the years following the pandemic, which would force the council to use £93m of its reserves and take until 2055 to pay back.
Separately of course, in Edinburgh, part of that green recovery should include the introduction of ELRCL hydrogen powered trains on a number of the suburban lines. Not just one route, but, three inter-connected routes and other spurs serving many other of the most densely populated areas of Edinburgh.
One of the problems thrown up regularly with the re-opening of the suburban line is capacity at Waverley and Haymarket. Of course Waverley Station in recent years has added platforms, extended others, added crossovers and generally increased capacity. Of course that was to accommodate more trains from afar at a station which has been the recipient of expanding routes from across the country for many years. The Edinburgh suburban routes have unfortunately not been afforded the same attention with regards to this expansion. The plan is that these ELRCL suburban trains (powered by hydrogen) would not use Waverley as a terminus, only stopping as they pass through to complete their routes (same with Haymarket).
The re-opening of the three suburban lines suggested by ELRCL will be required at some time soon in the future, they will attract passengers who have to change their green credentials, to a more integrated network that will work along with and integrate with existing transport provision.
29 September 2020
A hydrogen powered train has made its UK maiden journey and travelled on Britain’s rail network for first time. The prototype called the Hydroflex made a 25 mile round trip in Warwickshire, reaching speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. The next phase of this particular project is to move the hydrogen tanks fuel cell and battery out of the current carriage location and to relocate them underneath the train. In terms of timing, the aim is to start carrying paying passengers by the end of 2021.
Hydrogen powered trains are probably the greenest trains in the world – the only emission from the exhaust is pure water. Hydrogen trains are being made and considered for areas where electric trains can’t go e.g. passenger trains on the Edinburgh South Suburban line – if only that were the case! The ultimate plan with hydrogen powered trains is to replace heavily polluting diesel trains, which are at this time scheduled to be discontinued in the UK by 2040.
See also “HYDROGEN TRAINS ARE A REALITY IN 2019” on the home page menu.
Proposal to Redevelop the Former Powderhall Waste Transfer Station Site
The Waste Transfer Station site at Powderhall ceased operations in 2016. In March 2017, the City of Edinburgh Council approved the site for housing, work and community space, potential nursery school and improved green space. Consultations to agree the actual future use of the site are expected to be completed by October 2018. Thereafter, demolition of the existing structures and the clean up of the site is due to be completed by the autumn of 2019. After that period of time, discussions will commence on the formal planning process.
The original railway line from Abbeyhill to Leith and Granton via Easter Road, Leith Walk and Powderhall opened in 1868. The then cleansing department building was built at Boughton Road in 1893, specifically for waste incineration. The line to Leith closed in 1968 and the line to Granton in 1986. All of the original route to Leith and Granton has been dismantled, except that part of the line from Piershill to the waste depot site at Powderhall and slightly beyond to the north, crossing the Water of Leith. Previously it would have gone on to connect with the Trinity and Leith lines at nearby Bonnington.
Powderhall Station was adjacent to the cleansing department site on the Leith and Granton line and separated by a wall although the station only operated for passenger traffic between 1895 and 1917. Interestingly the station had been specifically opened with a view to encouraging house building in the vicinity, but, this did not apparently materialise to the extent hoped for and closure of the station to passenger traffic followed and although the actual platforms remained much of Powderhall Station was knocked down.
In terms of passenger traffic on this line Leith Walk station closed in 1930, Easter Road station in 1947 and Piershill and Abbeyhill stations in 1964. The section of line that remained from Piershill / Abbeyhill to Powderhall is about two miles in length and also served the nearby Leith Walk and Easter Road stations.
Powderhall became a “Waste Transfer Station” in 1985 and the waste was taken away to landfill sites by train. To facilitate the movement of wagons to and from the plant site a passing loop section of line was also built to the south of Broughton Road. The plant compacted refuse, brought in by road, into containers which were then conveyed by rail to landfill sites such as Kaimes Quarry at Kirknewton which was a disused whinstone quarry and then later on to disused limestone workings at East Barns as well as Oxwellmains, near Dunbar. Since 2016 bin lorries from across the city have been taking waste to two privately-operated sites instead.
The new £150 million Millerhill “energy from waste” incinerator should be fully operational by the end of 2018. This is a joint project with Midlothian Council and will be capable of processing nearly 200,000 tonnes of household and commercial waste a year and generate enough electricity each year to satisfy the energy demands of about 30,000 households.
Over the years, the main reason for the retention of this line was the “Powderhall Destructor / Incinerator” directly to the west of the former station. Subsequently, the wall between the two was removed as were the platforms and a loop installed. In 1989, Edinburgh District Council was approached by British Rail in respect of the use of the railway line at Powderhall and advised that they intended to remove the line unless the Council required the line for the continued transportation of waste, which they did.
The route is already reserved as a cycle path in a Local Development Plan approved by the City of Edinburgh Council, although the land is still owned by Network Rail rather than the council. Network Rail have also been considering the re-opening of this route to increase line capacity.
As mentioned earlier the station at Powderhall had been specifically opened in 1895 with a view to encouraging house building in the area. As this did not develop as expected, closure of Powderhall Station to passenger traffic followed in 1917 – there is of course an abundance of housing in the area today.
In terms of passenger traffic on this line Leith Walk station closed in 1930, Easter Road station in 1947 and Piershill and Abbeyhill stations in 1964. You will see on my 1.6 CITY (2018) map on the website that I would propose 5 stations on the existing and reinstated lines on the two miles or so of track between Piershill / Abbeyhill and Powderhall – for the record the stations would be at Meadowbank, Holyrood Queens (for Abbeyhill), Easter Road, Shrubhill (for Leith Walk) and Powderhall. I would suggest that the catchment area for potential rail passengers in this vicinity is significant.
There is no doubt that Edinburgh will require at some point in the future an additional transport system to support existing provision and I think that the ELRCL proposal with initially the “Edinburgh Overground” scheme would bring considerable benefits to ease traffic congestion, reduce car use and help to meet the aspirations of a renowned and expanding capital city.
Rather than all the existing railway infrastructure at Powderhall being dismantled as well and going to waste, I believe that a new station and the reinstatement of the line for passenger trains makes a lot sense today.
Imaginative use of this line as described in the Edinburgh Light Railway Company Limited (ELRCL) proposal to form part of an “Edinburgh Overground” network of routes as the northern suburban part of the overall scheme – see www.elrcl.co.uk for more details.
PLANNING PERMISSION FOR PROPOSED CALA RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT AT OCEAN TERMINAL – PLANNING APPLICATION REF: 16/03684/FUL
On 14 August 2018 the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) determined that the application by CALA Homes submitted in August 2016 which would contribute 388 residential units (including 97 affordable homes) towards meeting Edinburgh housing needs and provide 29 commercial units suitable for a range of local services and small businesses be granted. The proposal would develop a vacant urban site and bring economic benefits to Ocean Terminal and businesses in the area, in accordance with the particulars given in the application.
CEC felt that the proposal would have no unacceptable impact on the character and appearance of the adjacent Conservation Area and listed buildings. It was acceptable in terms of design, scale, (albeit an increased density of development would be preferred on such a highly accessible site), layout, impact on the tram proposal, open space and amenity of future and neighbouring residents. Subject to appropriate developer contributions to tram, transport, education and healthcare facilities being secured through a legal agreement, impact on infrastructure was acceptable.
If as a result of this decision would the ELRCL proposal if it came to fruition be able to follow an alternative route by using the tram line corridor to Ocean Terminal and then beyond?
At the Committee Hearing, the presentations by the various interested parties (including ELRCL) were listened to and the committee debated the issues raised, although ELRCL did not attend any meetings or indeed was contacted during the 2 year period it took to determine this application, apart from the initial acknowledgement of the presentation submitted in August 2016. CEC resolved that although the site was located within the Leith strategic business centre and formed part of Edinburgh’s strategic office land supply, the proposed benefits of the proposal outweighed the local plan requirement for a commercial led mixed use development.
What the ELRCL was asking to be preserved was a corridor of land across the site which would have provided for both an innovative and important network link in the overall ELRCL plan that would allow for a heavy / light rail link from a proposed station near Bath Street / Ocean Way Roundabout (called “Dock Station”) to a proposed station at Lindsay Road (then using the disused Caledonian Railway route between Newhaven and Russell Road (Haymarket) via Trinity, Ainslie Park, Crewe Toll, Craigleith and Roseburn – this link at Ocean Terminal would have been a first in terms of linking east with west lines in the Leith Docks location which has never been in place before. Of course the route of the tram route from York Place to Ocean Terminal has been safeguarded and all that remains to be finally decided is whether or not the tram route to Ocean Terminal will be built. Of course the 2018 ELRCL “Edinburgh Overground” rail proposal was to terminate at the new station at Dock, where it would meet up with the tram route at Ocean Way if built and as mentioned below, the proposed ELRCL route on the Caledonian Railway route which is not currently part of the “Edinburgh Overground” proposal could terminate at the proposed Lindsay Road station to link with the proposed tram line to Granton etc., and if that was not built the ELRCL line could be extended to meet up with the tram line at Ocean Terminal. While all this remains theoretical, there are obviously ways of accommodating these two separate transport proposals at this location and without a doubt, integrating them.
From Ocean Terminal the tram route was originally planned to go to Newhaven, Granton, West Pilton, Crewe Toll, Craigleith, Roseburn to Wester Coates and Haymarket – not dissimilar to the ELRCL proposal in terms of linkage, but, by a slightly different route which may or may not be sanctioned in the future. As indicated, there is some common ground here but the tram and ELRCL lines are clearly two different routes between the same start and finish points between Ocean Terminal and Haymarket. Much of the disused Caledonian Railway route between Newhaven and Russell Road under the ELRCL proposal would be single running track with passing loops as most of the route cannot accommodate both 2 lines and the existing walking and cycling provision as well – see Map 1.3 (2016) Edinburgh City on the website for details.
In September 2017 ELRCL suggested in “Latest News” that the strategic importance of developing an integrated transport network or creditable business plan should not only cover the city centre, the west and north, but the east, the south and outlying areas as well. That means transport being well thought out and offering the same type of services to different areas of the city. Well, Lothian Buses must have looked at this because as of end July 2018 we now have north, south, east and west bus services to Edinburgh Airport. A list of the 4 routes is shown below:-
Airlink 100 – Edinburgh Airport to City Centre i.e. City Centre (Waverley Bridge) to West End to Haymarket to Murrayfield to Edinburgh Zoo to Drum Brae South to Maybury to Edinburgh Airport and return;
Skylink 200 – Edinburgh Airport to Ocean Terminal via North Edinburgh i.e. Edinburgh Airport to Ingliston P&R to Clermiston to Blackhall to Muirhouse to Newhaven to Ocean Terminal and return;
Skylink 300 – Edinburgh Airport to Cameron Toll via West Edinburgh i.e. Edinburgh Airport to Gyle to Sighthill to Chesser to Fountainbridge to Surgeons’ Hall to Newington to Cameron Toll and return; and
Skylink 400 – Edinburgh Airport to Fort Kinnaird via South Edinburgh i.e. Edinburgh Airport to Ingliston P&R to Gyle to Wester Hailes to Fairmilehead to Moredun to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary to Fort Kinnaird.
The Edinburgh Airport buses can be requested to stop to pick up or drop off passengers at any stops on the route, similar to other Lothian Bus services. Edinburgh Airport buses should be more dedicated to the purpose they were introduced for and should at least operate limited stops only. Many airport buses have no additional stops between start and final destinations thus allowing travellers to transit as quickly as possible.
What has been launched by the ELRCL this month is a sensible step forward. It is a 1st phase of what amounts to 3 new suburban passenger routes in and around Edinburgh. The City of Edinburgh Council it seems is besotted by the thought of expanding the tram network e.g. to Leith. This in itself is not a bad idea although you have to wonder whether the additional borrowing required, on top of the existing loan, is justified in terms of the inability of the Council to fund other every day requirements. There might be some justification in taking forward expansion of the tram network, but, unfortunately, there are many factors which suggest this is not necessarily the only way forward as it only really benefits those on the route although tourists and visitors to the city probably see it in a different light as it links the city centre to the to the airport. While support for the ELRCL proposals has been relatively slow it will just be a matter of time before people realise the potential of such a scheme. Of course, the problem for all transport initiatives, such as this one, is finance and how that can be realised. However, this is an opportunity that should not be missed and it is very important that people realise that an additional transport network is necessary in Edinburgh, in addition to the tram route and other transport provision, so it is important to portray the benefits that it would bring.
The final cost of the existing tram line from Edinburgh Airport to York Place will be over £1 billion.
The statutory inquiry into the problematic tram project heard that on top of the official £776 billion, there had been additional tram related expenditure of £44m by the council and the Scottish Government and there will be interest payments on borrowing over 30 years of £182.5 million, making a grand total of £1.0025 billion.
These figures were based on detailed analysis of the budget and costs of the project and were carried out by a council finance specialist at the request of the inquiry. The specialist was also asked to look at what the extra money for the trams could have been spent on at a time when the council is under severe financial pressure. The specialist reported that the council had made savings totalling £145 million over the last three years. The specialist said loans for the tram project attracted interest payments of £14.3 million per year. Over the last three years that amounted to £42.9 million which is comparable to almost one third of the budget cuts made by the council in areas including children and families.
The council had to borrow £231 million to bridge the gap between the original £545 million budget and the final cost of £776 million. In addition to that, the council had to borrow a further £15.5 million to make up for a shortfall in the contribution expected from developers along the route. While the council had budgeted to receive some £25 million over 20 years, in reality they have only received £9.5 million to date.
Do Edinburgh residents want the tram extension to Leith/Newhaven?
According to a poll carried out for the Edinburgh Evening News, Edinburgh residents are divided on plans to extend the tram line to Leith and Newhaven with 43.5% against the plan to take the current route, which runs from Edinburgh Airport to York Place, down Leith Walk to Leith and Newhaven, while 42.2% were for the extension plan. Some 12.5% neither agreed or disagreed.
Around 2,200 Evening News readers took part in the survey and they were asked to what extent they agreed or disagreed with the proposed extension. While opponents may be surprised that there was not a larger majority against the proposal, is the small number who participated in the survey really representative of a city with a population around 500,000?
The city council has of course backed the £165 million extension in principle although they will not give their final approval until Autumn 2018.
Land use dispute puts the proposal for Waterside Plaza in new difficulties.
City planners have recommended that proposals for 425 homes and 100 affordable units in Leith Docks, located on disused land opposite Ocean Terminal, are thrown out in a dispute over the land use of the site. Planning chiefs have said that the development which on is vacant Brownfield land, fails to meet the business-related criteria for the area. While the updated plans for 388 homes and 97 affordable units have seen some support and will now go in front of the Council’s planning sub-committee on 8th November, the planners report has recommended refusal on the basis that the proposal is contrary to the Local Development Plan and without the inclusion of a key office development, as part of the mixed use proposal, the plans should not be supported.
Although no correspondence or contact was made with Edinburgh Council regarding the objection ELRCL lodged in August 2016 to a Cala housing proposal in Leith Docks (Application 16/03684/FUL: Ocean Drive, Leith Docks), it has been noted on 29th September that Cala have withdrawn the original plans and will resubmit amended ones for the Council to consider in November. However, reading between the lines, it would seem the corridor required at this location for any future ELRCL light rail proposal has not been taken into consideration. Await amended plans to comment on.
In response to the outline business case decision to take the tram line to Newhaven, the ELRCL posted the following comments on 28 September:-
“It seems to me that the rhetoric from Edinburgh Council has remained consistent over the years in that they want to provide a first-class fully integrated transport system to improve connectivity and reduce congestion, but, time and again cannot seem to deliver the key and enlightened transport infrastructure changes required to do so. The current tram line works well and benefits those living in its designated corridor (as well as tourists) and the bus service is second to none. While both provide a very good service they are not lessening congestion in and around Edinburgh.
Indeed figures released recently for the whole of Scotland show that bus travel numbers continue to fall as the majority of people (67 per cent) preferred to use car journeys, which have actually increased by 2 per cent in recent years, so has congestion in and around Edinburgh increased? If it has, then in future years it may get even worse?
Extending the tram line to Ocean Terminal and Newhaven will not I suspect reduce congestion although it will allow another direct link to town and to Edinburgh Airport. Now, at the moment from Ocean terminal, there are numerous buses that provide a direct link to town and two to Edinburgh Airport, the 200 and the 35 (which will become the new 300). When the trams started operating in 2014, the 100 bus service (Waverley Bridge to Edinburgh Airport) continued to operate, indeed a new bus fleet was provided for the service, despite the tram line being nearby. If the tram line extension to Newhaven comes to fruition, then the assumption would be that this area will have three direct links to the airport.
The strategic importance of developing an integrated transport network or creditable business plan should not only cover the city centre, the west and north, but the east, the south and outlying areas as well. Transport has to be well thought-out, properly linked up so that people in all areas of the city have a choice in terms of the transport available to them. If this means another mode of transport being considered offering different types of services to different areas, then that should surely be seriously looked at!
I represent the Edinburgh Light Railway Company Limited (www.elrcl.co.uk). Their proposal involves an additional light rail train solution to supplement existing transport providers, which would operate virtually off-road on old railway formations as well as on some existing operational heavy lines, including the Edinburgh South Suburban Railway (ESSR). Such a scheme should be included in any long term thinking for reducing congestion in Edinburgh and its environs and a very strong case should be made for it even in these difficult financial times.”
On 21st September 2017 Edinburgh Councillors agreed the outline business case to take the tram line to Newhaven. That decision is regarded as a major step forward for the £165m plan to extend the line to Leith and means the search for a contractor can get underway.
A final decision on taking the tram line to Newhaven will not be made until Autumn 2018.
An email outlining the ELR proposal “A New Light Rail Train Concept to consider for Edinburgh and its Environs“) was circulated to the Transport and Environment Committee at the City of Edinburgh Council along with notification to East Lothian and Midlothian Councils, ten Community Councils in Edinburgh that had contact points, Network Rail, Transport Scotland, Capital Rail Action Group (CRAG), Transform Scotland, The Cockburn Association, Forth Ports, Friends of the Earth Edinburgh, Railfuture Scotland, SESTRANS, SUSTRANS and The Scotsman / Evening News, on 8/9 March 2017 for their information – due to a lack of named contacts or detailed contact points on email (apart from the City of Edinburgh Council), this information might not have reached the intended recipients.
As the heading suggests, the email basically says that I have been looking to promote a new light rail train network for Edinburgh and its environs which would work with and alongside heavy rail as well as integrating with existing services provided by other transport providers. While the ELR proposal is at a very early stage in the planning process, it is important to get the concept of this scheme across to as many organisations and individuals as possible and to obtain views on this proposal.
The proposal and its history to date is contained in the ELRCL website www.elrcl.co.uk and is self-explanatory. Should you wish to contact me the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the record, the ELRCL objected to a Cala housing proposal in Leith Docks (Application 16/03684/FUL: Ocean Drive, Leith Docks), as a corridor is required to be maintained at this location approximately on the line of the defunct road that runs across the main application site for part of the section of line between the proposed Dock and Lindsay Road Stations. The objection was submitted to the Council at the end of August 2016 along with a number of plans and the case is still awaiting assessment.