In today’s game of fantasy metro network, we’re heading north, with a scribbler who wishes to remain anonymous...
I first had the idea of designing a transport system for Edinburgh following a kickabout at Peffermill, the home of the Edinburgh university sports pitches. In an area that I believed to be miles from any kind of railways or stations, I was surprised to see a lone freight train crawling past, just behind the hedges at the far end of the football fields.
On returning home, I did some research to find that this line is known as the ‘Edinburgh Suburban and Southside Railway’, but has been closed to passenger trains since 1962. In its heyday, this line would have been part of a large loop, passing through Edinburgh’s main terminus Waverley. I also discovered that the line was almost reopened to passenger traffic in 2015, but this never materialised.
So this got me thinking: what would an extensive metro/rail system for Edinburgh look like?
Public transport as things stand in Edinburgh is a mixed bag. The Lothian Buses cover an extensive network and are reliable and good value for money, but with Edinburgh suffering from congestion, they can be a slow way to travel, especially in the city centre. Then there are the trams – but this service only really serves the airport, a few out of town business districts, and some western suburbs.
Suburban rail is also lacking – there are only 12 stations in the entirety of Edinburgh. In Glasgow, albeit a bigger city, there are 61 National Rail stations and 15 subway stations.
On the map I have used three ‘modes’– the trams, suburban rail, and the underground lines. The trams are fairly self-explanatory: I’ve just integrated the line on to the map without changing anything. For the suburban rail, I’ve used a mixture of existing lines (used and disused), slightly extending some in a couple of areas. I’ve taken inspiration from the London Overground and Paris RER system; different routes run on the same route in the style of the Overground, whilst like the RER the lines are given different letters from A to E. In a nutshell, the suburban rail is designed to use lines which already exist or have existed in the past, including reopening some closed down stations.
The major part of this operation was the creation of the underground lines. I basically just grabbed a pencil and connected up major districts of Edinburgh, making sure that places that would require a lot of passenger demand are well connected – for example, Edinburgh Airport, Holyrood, the main business districts and major suburbs such as Leith.
On the subject of Leith, the area used to be served by a large station known as ‘Leith Central’; this closed to passengers in 1952 but the derelict building remained for many years afterwards. A scene in Irvine Welsh’s cult novel Trainspotting, in which Frank Begbie comes across a homeless man in the station who he then realises is his father, takes place here.
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I’ve played about with Waverley, Edinburgh’s central hub station, as well. The blueprint would basically be one massive interconnected station with overground railway services running out of Waverley, underground trains running out of St James’ underground station, and trams running from York Place as they do in real life.
I have tried to imagine this all being integrated with the St James’ shopping centre redevelopment to create one huge transportation/shopping complex: think the World Trade Center transportation hub in New York. To aid congestion at Waverley, I’ve added in the pink ‘rapid ring’, a small circular line covering the city centre.
Yes, I realise the stations are too densely together for a city like Edinburgh, but I guess that’s the joy of ‘fantasy transport planning’ with no constraints. On that subject, I’d be intrigued if someone can give me an estimate of the cost of building this. Especially considering the Edinburgh tram line alone cost around a billion pounds…