PLANS for a rail link to Edinburgh Airport moved a step closer today after MSPs revealed concerns over journey times, trains and funding have been dealt with.
However, they urged Transport Scotland to commit to electrifying the track to pave the way for faster journeys, and to rule out a premium fare for commuters.
In September, the five-strong committee of MSPs charged with considering the viability of the link questioned whether the 650 million scheme could actually be implemented.
But today's updated report was almost entirely positive, and acknowledged that many of their previous concerns had been addressed.
Labour backbencher Scott Barrie, convener of the Edinburgh Airport Rail Link (EARL) Bill Committee, said: "Whilst the committee still has concerns regarding other aspects of the Bill, the meaningful dialogue entered into by the promoter and objectors from the earliest stages is to be commended and recommended to all future private bill promoters."
Transport Minister Tavish Scott confirmed that EARL would be funded in its entirety, with most of the money coming through Transport Scotland, helped by contributions from Edinburgh Airport Ltd.
The link, which would see a tunnel dug under the airport runway, would give direct access to Edinburgh Airport to passenger trains from Edinburgh, Fife and Glasgow, opening the airport up to a wider national market.
Concerns about the performance of the rolling stock that was earmarked to run along the new link have also been addressed.
The committee said Transport Scotland is expected to order up to 52 three-car express trains, including 11 or 12 to run between Edinburgh and Glasgow, which will be powerful enough to make the extra airport stop without increasing overall journey times.
This was key to the committee rejecting concerns that the airport link would cause hold-ups for commuters travelling between the Capital to Glasgow.
Other changes to the previous plans, which attracted objections from a number of groups and individuals, included better landscaping, and the link being monitored for noise and vibration for five years instead of six months.
However the MSPs concluded: "The committee remains very concerned that in considering a fares policy for EARL, a premium fare has not been ruled out."
They added: "The committee is frustrated no decision has been made on electrification.
"Given the EARL infrastructure is suitable, the committee would strongly recommend that should electrification of the central Scotland rail network proceed then EARL should be included."
MSPs are due to vote on the bill next month in the hope it will be approved ahead of the Scottish elections in May.
TIE, the city council's transport body which is behind the project, says if it gets the final go-ahead it should be completed by 2011.
A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: "Transport Scotland is pleased with today's report and the progress made with the Bill."