How do you reopen the Edinburgh South Suburban Railway (ESSR) to passenger traffic in 2019?
Well, there are a few things to consider.
1. In 2016, the Scotrail Alliance (ScotRail, Network Rail and Abellio) were in favour of re-opening the Edinburgh South Suburban Line (ESSR) to passenger traffic, notwithstanding a qualification that tram-trains would be used instead of heavy rail*. The reason behind that qualification was to allow the line to connect with the trams at Haymarket, and then travel along Princes Street which would necessitate further tram work east of Princes Street in order to avoid Waverley. So the challenge is to avoid running more trains through Waverley. The thing is, would such trains actually need to run right through Waverley, or could they just use turnaround platforms! Of course the qualification of using tram-trains will also mean the electrification of a number of suburban routes. How many people in Edinburgh are completely unaware of the ESSR’s existence or aware of the potential benefits that could be gained by developing the line once again for use by passenger traffic?
For ease of reference, I have included below two relevant paragraphs from the website header “Hydrogen Trains are a Reality in 2019” as they very much deal with the current Scotrail Alliance precondition of tram-trains only on any reopened ESSR lines.
“The reason behind that qualification was to allow the line to connect with the trams at Haymarket, and then travel along Princes Street which would necessitate further tram work east of Princes Street in order to avoid Waverley – that suggests running an on-road tram line to Meadowbank or beyond via Regent Road, Montrose Terrace, London Road and possibly Portobello Road to rejoin the main / suburban line. Alternatively, the ELRCL has suggested in the website header “The ELR in 2018” at “Where are we now?”, amongst other things, a tram line extension from the proposed York Place / Leith / Newhaven tram route extension at the London Road roundabout along London Road to Abbeyhill and Meadowbank. This would be much more practical solution than further tram work east of Princes Street in order to avoid Waverley and in terms of a passenger catchment area, much more scope.”
“I think the prospect or the case for hydrogen trains operating on the ESSR is a strong one as these trains are ideally suited for short stretches of the network that have not been converted to electric rails, which would have to happen if tram-trains were to be introduced – surely a potential new lease of life for the ESSR if hydrogen trains were to become a reality.”
2. The long-awaited Sheffield to Rotherham tram-train, the first example of this concept in the UK finally welcomed passengers in October 2018 – almost three years late because there were problems with the design work to adapt the heavy rail network to allow tram-train style service and it also came in at five times the original budget. This concept does work as there are other successful similar systems operating in Europe. Could this work in Edinburgh as the Scotrail Alliance have stated?
The Transport Scotland policy position on the Edinburgh South Suburban Line (ESSR) is set out below:-
3. The ESSR is currently used daily for diesel freight trains, Network Rail’s own engineering trains, moving passenger carriages to depots and excursion trains;
4. The Scottish Government has no current plans to reintroduce passenger services on this line;
5. In the first instance any promoters of such a plan would need to contact the South East of Scotland Regional Transport Partnership (SEStran) or Edinburgh City Council to establish if any proposal fits with their local and regional transport strategies;
6. If any promoter wished to progress the proposal further, they would have to undertake a transport appraisal in line with Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) which would examine all transport modes to determine the most appropriate solutions;
7. All rail proposals will be considered subject to the Scottish Government’s priorities, their rail investment strategy, robust business case, affordability and other competing priorities;
8. Investment in railways to connect communities remains a priority for the Scottish Government;
9. The Local Rail Development Fund was to reopen for a second round of applications in autumn 2018;
10. The Local Rail Development Fund was created to enable local communities to appraise and potentially bring forward proposals aimed at tackling very specific, local rail connectivity issues;
11. Network Rail recently carried out detailed work on the potential future use of the line including options to electrify the line as an electric freight route and diversionary route for electric passenger services; and
12. At the present time there are no immediate plans to take forward the electrification of the line in the next rail control period between 2019 and 2024.
* Of course has anyone considered hydrogen-powered trains for the Edinburgh Suburban line – the ELRCL has looked at this so see the website header “Hydrogen Trains are a Reality in 2019” for background information.