The Capital Rail Action Group have submitted a bid to the Local Rail Development Fund for a feasibility study into the reopening of Portobello Railway Station.
Alignment with Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance
Portobello is a coastal suburb of Edinburgh, lying some three miles from the city centre. It has a central population around its town centre of probably some 15,000 – with around 700 new homes being and planned to be built on former industrial land just off the High Street.
The main means of accessing the rest of the city by public transport is the bus – and, like many other British cities, bus journey times have increased by some 10% over the past decade. There have been constant roadworks and diversions affecting Lothian Buses’ main 26 route into the city centre for the best part of ten years now. Whilst a journey time of 20 minutes is possible very early in the morning from Portobello Town Hall to Princes Street, this increases to around 30 minutes during the morning peak period.
Express services are less frequent (generally every half hour) – and therefore not as prone to bunching as the 26. These generally are timetabled to take just over 20 minutes to reach Princes Street.
For those travelling towards Haymarket journey times are at least half an hour by bus – and probably double that if heading to the business districts in west Edinburgh around Edinburgh Park (even if changing on to the tram).
By contrast, the railway service (Portobello station was closed in 1964) could deliver Portobello folk to Waverley station in 6 minutes and to Haymarket in around 10 minutes.
Tackling local issues and promoting economic growth in communities
Passenger frustration sitting on buses in Edinburgh is not a new phenomenon. However, we propose that it be monetised in any transport appraisal work so that the time savings possible by rail can be credited to the benefits side of any cost benefit analysis. The less time spent travelling will also be more time spent more productively at work or at leisure.
With rail links to the centre and beyond (e.g. to the Borders and East Lothian), Portobello will become a more attractive place for people to stay in and visit – in a growing capital city which only recently passed the half a million population mark with further double digit growth projected for the coming decade (especially amongst those of working age).
Based on detailed analysis of census population and travel data, Railfuture Scotland have calculated an anticipated annual usage of 200,000 at a re-opened Portobello station.
We suspect that car travel is more predominant a mode of transport between Portobello and the business districts on the other side of the city than it is to the city centre – no doubt contributing to the gridlock experienced daily on the Edinburgh City Bypass and, if this road is not used, to the poor air quality of the Haymarket and Corstorphine areas.
Alignment with Scottish Government priorities for transport
Our proposal for a re-opened Portobello railway station able to be served both by local ECML trains (North Berwick and Dunbar) as well as services on the Borders Railway fits very well with the following main outcomes outlined in the National Transport Strategy: (a) Improve journey times and connections; (b) Reducing emissions, and; (c) Improve quality, accessibility and affordability.
As the work would ideally be co-ordinated with the planned improvements to Portobello junction to ensure a station able to be served by as many trains as possible and offering a wider choice of direct rail travel options, our proposal also fits in well with planned rail capacity enhancements on the eastern approaches to Edinburgh.