Backers raise £8.5m to get South Sub on track

NEARLY half the cash needed to reopen a passenger railway line in south Edinburgh has been secured by a private consortium.

The announcement was today hailed as a major step forward for plans to re-introduce services on the Edinburgh South Suburban Railway.

The scheme is only likely to cost around 18 million, yet the Scottish Executive has so far refused to commit any funding.

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But E-Rail, a private company formed to fight for the re-opening of the "South Sub", has now been pledged 8.5m from land owners along the route.

It is understood the cash will come from Edinburgh University, and the Cameron Toll and Fort Kinnaird shopping centres, among others. Properties within 100 metres of stations on the line are expected to increase in value by around ten per cent, and development land will be more sought-after as a result.

Campaigners, who have fought for decades to reintroduce passenger trains to the South Sub after they were withdrawn in the 1960s, today welcomed the news.

E-Rail will now work with the council as it draws up a new business case in a bid to persuade the Executive to provide the remainder of the cash.

George Hazel, a director with E-Rail and the city council's former top transport official, said: "I believe that we are a step closer to realising our long held dream that the South Suburban line can once again play a major role in the city's transport network.

"The difference between the South Suburban project and other transport projects in Edinburgh is that the cost of the project to the public purse will be significantly reduced by financial support from the private sector. We will work closely with the council to prepare a first-class business case to present to the Transport Minister in the summer."

E-Rail was set up by Mr Hazel, who now works as managing director of a transport consultancy, and Edinburgh chartered surveyor John McGregor, who helped bring Harvey Nichols to the city.

They came up with the idea of using private funds for the project, captured through increases in development land values around stations. Only land owners who have space to develop were asked to pledge a contribution.

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The Executive will need to put up cash in the first place, but will then be repaid once trains are running around the line.

Colin Howden, director of transport lobby group TRANSform Scotland, said today: "

If E-Rail are able to generate half of the finance required to reopen the South Sub, then this gives even more urgency for action."

A recent feasibility study recommended a reinstated South Sub passenger service with trains travelling from Waverley to Haymarket, then via stations at Gorgie, Craiglockhart, Morningside, Blackford or Newington, Cameron Toll, Craigmillar and Niddrie or Kinnaird Park. The report suggested the line could attract 7100 passengers per day.

Councillor Ricky Henderson, the city's transport leader, said:

"I hope that very serious consideration will be given to our business case when it is submitted to the Transport Minister."

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