In this morning’s Scotland on Sunday, Kenny Farquharson, the former Political Editor and now the Deputy Editor, writes that the only thing that can save Edinburgh from the tramacle is for Alex Salmond to put the trams on the right track.
I’d been directed there from Twitter by several people I follow who thought it was a great article, but:
It’s crucial we find an efficient way of whisking visitors – be they tourists or business people – away from the airport as quickly and comfortably as possible to the bus and rail connections that can take them to wherever in Scotland they are heading
Oh Kenny, how can you have lived in Edinburgh for 23 years and never taken the train from Waverley into Fife over the Forth Rail Bridge? (Well worth doing, by the way – when I was an Edinburgh-Rosyth commuter, every weekday morning I’d look up from my reading as the sound of the rails told me we were reaching the bridge, and let the glorious burst of view over the Forth feast my eyes: and notice that all through the carriage, commuters who saw this view twice a day every working day, were looking up from their work or the coffee wide-eyed to enjoy.)
But this post is not about the Forth Rail Bridge. Simply that if you ever had, you’d have known that the “efficient way” to whisk visitors from airport to train already exists.
(Mind you, the Airlink buses are pretty efficient as airport connector buses go – airport to city centre in less than half an hour: comfortable and inexpensive.)
You see, the railway line runs right past the airfield. All we need is to build a halt (platforms either side and a connecting bridge): a feeder road from the halt to the airport itself: and a fleet of buses to take passengers from halt to airport. If we hadn’t already wasted so much money on the Edinburgh Tram Debacle (the Broughton Spurtle* suggests Tramacle as the appropriate name) we could have considered more expensive options, but the beauty of the plan to build a halt, a bridge, and a road is that it’s possible Edinburgh Airport could expand on this when it’s proved successful.
That project, which was the most obvious solution even back when Edinburgh Trams were first mooted, has become even more appealling now Waverley Station is in the process of making itself accessible for the 21st century. But Haymarket station is already accessible, with lifts to all platforms and to street level.
We don’t even need a new set of expensive trains, as London has done for train connections to Heathrow: we just need to add a new stop on the line. Even more efficient than the Airlink buses, far cheaper than any trams project, and neatly allowing tourists who intend to land at Edinburgh and travel to other parts of Scotland to do so seamlessly.
The original plan to replace the 22 bus route with a tram line that could whisk people from Newhaven to the airport didn’t have much of a point to it: the current plan, which amounts to replacing the Airlink buses as far as Haymarket with a tramline that will cost over a billion, is so monstrously stupid I cannot believe anyone who knows Edinburgh transport could listen to it with a straight face, let alone vote for it! We need to take the train, not build a brand new tram line that replicates the train route!
Incidentally, Edinburgh Trams have already cost more than covering Princes Street with gold. Let’s not throw more gold on the streets. Please.
*Update: Greener Leith seems to have been the originator: Twitter misled me. There’s a slideshow at the Greener Leith blog of Twitter reactions to the Edinburgh Council debate:
to give you a sense of the strength of feeling the debate has produced. It would seem most Leithers simply want to get Leith Walk repaired as quickly as possible.
Amen to that.
Update: on Twitter, last night, I got into a discussion with Tom Parnell (@ArchHist) who asserted and repeatedly defended that the #TakeTheTrain alternative to the trams is not workable because it would require more trains which would require building new lines which would require rebuilding Waverley Station, all of which would cost billions. (He also asserted that the Airlink bus service, which can get you from the airport to Edinburgh in 15 minutes to half an hour depending on traffic, is “not mass transit!” but I’ve been on a lot worse and more expensive bus-connections between airports and city centre in my travels.)
There is a purpose-built trainlink between Paddington Station in London and Heathrow Airport. Trains run every fifteen minutes and take fifteen minutes there and back.
The trainlink between Waverley Station and Edinburgh Airport, presuming only existing rail lines and the same train frequency as now were used, would run four times an hour and take less than fifteen minutes to reach the airport. So the argument dismissing #TakeTheTrain as too costly presumes that Edinburgh Airport will need a faster and more frequent train service from Edinburgh than Heathrow does from London.
Edinburgh Airport saw 8,596,715 passengers in 2010.
Heathrow Airport saw 67 million passengers in 2010.