Airport's tram-train hub will go ahead - with or without trams
A NEW tram-train interchange will be built to serve Edinburgh Airport as part of Scotland's biggest rail upgrade even if the tram scheme is shelved, The Scotsman has learned.
Transport minister Keith Brown said the new station at Gogar remained part of the 1.05 billion scheme to electrify most of the Central Belt network, as he launched a consultation on the plans yesterday.
Mr Brown said it was for Edinburgh City Council, which is in charge of the troubled tram scheme, to decide its outcome.
However, it is understood that even if the tram line is cancelled or mothballed, the station would still be built by Network Rail in case it is revived in the future.
Despite opposing the tram project, the SNP opted for the line to replace the planned Edinburgh airport rail link, which it axed on coming to power in 2007. Trams are due to transport rail passengers between Gogar and the airport.
The station will be served by some trains on the main Edinburgh-Glasgow line, which will be diverted via Gogar from their current route to the south of the airport.
Network Rail said this re-routing, taking trains on a new loop via Dalmeny, near South Queensferry, would also be required whatever the fate of the tram scheme, to free up space on the existing line.
The overall Edinburgh-Glasgow improvement programme, due to be completed in five years, would see the fastest main line journeys speeded up from 50 to 37 minutes without raising the 100mph speed limit.
This will be achieved by new electric trains with amongst the best acceleration in Britain, similar to the Javelin trains which run on the Channel Tunnel's High Speed One line in Kent.
Other routes to be speeded up thanks to electrification include lines between Edinburgh and Glasgow and Dunblane and Alloa. More frequent services will also operate on a secondary Edinburgh-Glasgow route via Carstairs.
Few new details were announced at the launch of the consultation yesterday. However, confirmation that the previously-announced scheme will go ahead in its entirety was welcomed by transport experts who had feared that extending electrification to Dunblane would be axed to save money.
Most of the work can be done using Network Rail's existing powers because it is within railway boundaries.However, a public inquiry is expected to be triggered by the likely compulsory purchase of land and up to 12 properties to make way for the new link line at Dalmeny, and extra tracks at Winchburgh in West Lothian, at Greenhill, west of Falkirk, and at Croy in North Lanarkshire.
Ron McAulay, Network Rail's Scotland director, said there would be inevitable disturbance to residents to minimise disruption to passengers.
He said: "Piling can be done during the night - our neighbours will not thank us for that."
The first stage to be completed will be electrification of the Glasgow-Cumbernauld line in time for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in three years.
Mr Brown said: "Scotland's rail passengers will travel in greater comfort on faster and greener trains."
Electric trains are lighter, quieter and more reliable than diesels, and could eventually be powered by wind and wave energy, the Scottish Government hopes.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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