Formed in 1989, the Capital Rail Action Group (CRAG) is based in Edinburgh and campaigns primarily for better and more integrated public transport provision, especially rail-based, in the capital and its travel-to-work area.
Support for such goals is not an end in itself. Rather we believe that these goals are in fact the means by which we can make our capital city a more efficient and pleasant place in which to live, work and enjoy ourselves. They will also allow our many visitors to make the most of their time with us here.
We welcome the work done in recent years to upgrade rail-based transport provision in and around Edinburgh. The majority of completed schemes has, however, resulted in better journey opportunities for those living outwith the city - whilst doing little to improve the lot of the far greater number living within it. Indeed, it is now considerably quicker to access the city centre from Prestonpans, Linlithgow and Dalgety Bay than it is from Pilton, Liberton and Duddingston. This does not encourage a compact, sustainable city.
Moreover, current plans for faster and even more frequent trains to Glasgow - whilst per se no bad thing - can only exacerbate this trend of increasingly lengthy commuter travel.
We thus, in publishing this manifesto for the 2012 City of Edinburgh Council elections, wish to suggest the following opportunities which, if realised, will help to address this inbalance in investment and, in conjunction with locally-focused planning and housing policies, will hopefully make Edinburgh a more affordable and attractive city to live in.
Abbeyhill station re-opening: an opportunity exists to add community value to the current proposal to relay track to Abbeyhill to provide sidings for empty passenger trains which would otherwise occupy valuable platform space at Waverley station. Re-opening Abbeyhill for passenger use would allow even more trains to clear Waverley and would give those living there and travelling to this densely populated area of the city access to the rail network for the first time in over 50 years. An easy interchange with bus services would also be achieved.
CRAG welcomes the support of the City of Edinburgh Council for the re-opening to passenger use of Abbeyhill station. Network Rail's current track layout, however, in impinging on the East Coast Main Line, precludes just such a passenger service. We thus call upon all involved to work together to have the track layout altered to re-use the redundant trackbed leading to Abbehyill to allow a passenger service to be provided.
Portobello station: CRAG welcomes the plans by Network Rail to re-instate double track over the junction at Portobello leading to and from the line to Newcraighall and the future line to Midlothian and Galashiels. We believe, however, that this work should take place alongside the building of a new station to once more allow Portobello to be served by rail. Portobello was one of the busiest suburban stations in the past - with a journey time of 5 minutes to/from Waverley, it would undoubtedly be so once again.
South suburban line tram-trains: with the Scottish Government having effectively declared that all railway investment is to be aimed at those journeying into Edinburgh from outwith the city and not for the benefit of those seeking to travel within the city, trams represent the only viable means whereby passengers can once again travel through the city on the long underused south suburban railway. Tram-trains have been running on railway lines in Europe for decades - and a trial of tram-trains is shortly to take place in Yorkshire. We call upon the City of Edinburgh Council and the Scottish Government to actively pursue tram-trains as one element of an enhanced public transport provision for the capital - one utilising existing infrastructure and adding value to the investment already made to bring trams back to the city.
Waverley station: CRAG welcomes the current works to restore the city's principal station and to improve access to Princes Street and Market Street. We would hope that these works can then lead to further enhancement of the facilities on offer at this major gateway to the capital. In particular, we would suggest that the use of the main station building for offices be examined to see whether this grand building can be put to more public use - with new-build railway accommodation being provided at the east end of the station. The main booking office should remain in the current building - we are only proposing the moving of supportive "back-office" functions.
CRAG believes that taxis should still be allowed to access the station. We would also prefer that public pick-up/drop-off facilities for car access be allowed to remain.
Trams: despite all the travails of recent years, CRAG still believes that trams will be good for Edinburgh. There is absolutely no reason to believe that their success in many other cities throughout the world will not also be seen here.
We believe that trams can make Princes Street an altogether more pleasant place. We therefore call upon the City of Edinburgh Council to implement a trial removal of buses from Princes Street from Waverley Bridge westwards. Ideally, this would take place in the summer months to allow the potential of a more pleasant Princes Street to be fully realised and to better assess the other consequences of such a move.
We also believe that, as far as possible, trams should integrate with the city's bus services - which will remain the mainstay of public transport provision in Edinburgh. To that end, we believe that the planned provision of tram stops in the city centre is inadequate. We call upon the City of Edinburgh Council to urgently re-assess the need for a tram stop at the west end of Princes Street to allow better interchange with bus services using Lothian Road. We also believe that an additional tram stop should be located around the area of the Scott Monument to allow better interchange between the tram and Waverley station and between tram and bus.
Finally, we need a more extensive tram provision than just a line from the airport to York Place if trams are to enable the city to better its transport offer. The financial viability of the present tram project will be enhanced if it is completed to Leith and Newhaven. This should be considered - along with tram-trains to Little France via Haymarket and the south suburban line to Cameron Toll, as outlined above.