History and EARL

In 2001, the Scottish Government, in association with BAA (the owner of Glasgow and Edinburgh airports), Scottish Enterprise, the Strategic Rail Authority and the Department for Transport, commissioned consultants to carry out a detailed economic and engineering study on the options to link Glasgow and Edinburgh Airports to the rail network. The consultants’ report Rail links to Glasgow and Edinburgh Airports – Final Report; February 2003.  Sinclair Knight Merz1 was published in February 2003 and its conclusions concerning the link to Edinburgh airport included (Section 8.5.3):

“….the Surface Diversion option would offer the best value for money. However, this option would impose a significant time delay to passengers using the services diverted into the Airport (10 minutes to Stirling and 15 minutes to Fife). The next best option is the Runway Tunnel option although, under base case assumptions, the value for money would be appreciably lower than that for the Surface Diversion option.

“…Our financial appraisals have shown that, while it would be difficult to attract private sector investment in the Runway Tunnel option, it may be possible to make the Surface Diversion option sufficiently attractive for significant private sector involvement. As matters stand, and under neutral assumptions, the Runway Tunnel option could only be taken forward with a large public sector funding contribution.”

Following the report’s publication, the Scottish Government, in association with BAA, announced its commitment to further development of the proposals for a link to Edinburgh Airport. The Scottish Government appointed tie ltd, which is owned by the City of Edinburgh Council, to develop the proposals for the Edinburgh Airport Rail Link (EARL). The Runway Tunnel option was adopted for development.

The EARL project was progressed through to an Act of Parliament for which Royal Assent was granted on 19 April 2007. However, on 27 June 2007, following the change of Government in May, the Scottish Parliament passed a motion which, among other matters, called on the Scottish Government to resolve “… the governance issues identified by the Auditor General before any binding financial commitment is made and to report back to the Parliament in September on the outcome of its discussions with the relevant parties.” Transport Scotland asked tie to suspend active work and expenditure on implementing the project pending the outcome of the review process.

Government plans for Gogar and the Dalmeny chord

On 27 September 2007 the Minister for Transport, Stewart Stevenson, announced:

“There is simply no sensible way for EARL to proceed in its original form…….The EARL project proposed:

  • Tunnelling under a live, operational runway;
  • Diverting a river and tunnelling underneath it; and
  • Constructing a sub-surface railway.
    Projects of this complexity and risk profile demand clear and co-ordinated governance and Audit Scotland told us that we do not have this.”

    The Minister instead proposed an alternative solution of adding an airport station at Gogar on the Fife railway line. This would provide an interchange with Edinburgh City’s trams for onward travel to the airport. He also said that the Government intends to build a rail link between the Fife and the Edinburgh & Glasgow (E&G) routes – the Dalmeny chord – that would allow E&G trains to stop at the new airport station.

    The current layout of the railway lines and the assumed configuration of the proposed Gogar station and Dalmeny chord are shown in Figure 1 The configuration shown in Figure 1 shows Newbridge junction after its remodelling as part of the Airdrie - Bathgate line reopening.  Until then, Newbridge is a single lead junction, similar to the arrangement at Winchburgh.2. There are no plans or documentation currently available in the public domain that provide details or layouts of the Government’s proposals.

    Gogar station will serve only the northern two of the four railway tracks that pass through Haymarket and Waverley. Trains to and from Fife use the northern pair of tracks; trains to and from Glasgow, Falkirk and Stirling use the southern pair. Therefore, trains to and from Glasgow that serve Gogar station via the proposed Dalmeny chord would share the northern pair of tracks with Fife trains.

    The requirement for the Dalmeny chord appears unrelated to Edinburgh Airport. When the Airdrie-Bathgate line is reopened in 2010, four trains per hour (tph) will run from Glasgow Queen Street, via Newbridge Junction to Edinburgh Waverley. From 2015, Network Rail plans to electrify and increase the capacity of the E&G line to allow six tph. With the existing two tph between Dunblane and Edinburgh, this would require a total of twelve tph to be accommodated on the E&G line through Newbridge junction and Edinburgh Park.

    The current track configuration could not cope readily with this traffic. Newbridge junction is a flat junction and it would not be practicable to rebuild it as a grade-separated junction because it spans the M8 motorway, as shown in Figure 2. Moreover, there is political pressure for more trains to stop at Edinburgh Park. These two factors militate against reliable operation at twelve tph on these tracks for mixed services (stopping and express). The initial technical feasibility report Airdrie – Bathgate Railway Route Re-opening;  Initial Technical Feasibility Report.  Babtie Group, for West Lothian Council.  BTR0009523  June 20043 on the reopening of the Airdrie-Bathgate line noted (Section 3.1.1) “If EARL should proceed…it would ease the well-known capacity constraints at and east of Newbridge Junction into Haymarket Station.”

    In the absence of EARL (or either EISL proposal), the Dalmeny chord is required to provide the opportunity to divert some of the trains from Glasgow (via Falkirk) onto the Fife lines. The Fife lines carry only five or six tph and Network Rail has plans to improve their capacity. Diverting some of the Glasgow (via Falkirk) trains onto the Fife lines via Dalmeny would balance the loading on the E&G and the Fife lines more evenly and provide operational flexibility to cope with disruption to services. It would enable more trains to be timetabled to stop at Edinburgh Park. It is possible that the opening of the Dalmeny chord would reduce the number of trains that could stop at Gogar because the tracks through that station would then be required by a greater density of traffic and trains that stop would delay following non-stopping trains.

    All trains that use the Fife lines will pass through Gogar station, regardless of whether they are stopping there. This is a different arrangement from that which was proposed for EARL, in which an extra set of tracks would have been provided forming a loop that would be used only by trains stopping at the airport station. EARL proposed only two platforms and proposed a timetable that allowed only about half the trains from the Fife lines and half from the E&G lines to be diverted through the EARL loop, because the EARL station’s two platforms could not have coped with all the trains that travel west from the four platforms at Haymarket.

    Likewise, Gogar station will be able to have no more than about half the trains heading west from Haymarket passing through it, and fewer if many trains are to stop at Gogar. Because all Fife-bound trains must pass through Gogar, this will limit the number of trains that can use the proposed Dalmeny chord. It is not obvious how many trains per hour could stop at Gogar but it appears unlikely that frequent services can be offered to any part of Scotland that is not served by a rail line through Fife.

    The arrangements at Gogar and Edinburgh Park would be complex for passengers, especially infrequent travellers or tourists arriving at the airport. For example, it would be complex to advise passengers travelling from the airport where they should alight from the tram to board a train to Falkirk. The next train may leave from either Gogar or Edinburgh Park.

    The proposed station at Gogar will directly benefit only passengers travelling from Fife, who will be able to transfer to a tram at Gogar, rather than at Haymarket. It is unlikely to provide more than two trains per hour for passengers travelling to or from Glasgow. It will be unable to serve the Airdrie – Bathgate line to Glasgow, due to open in 2010. The Dalmeny chord would offer benefits to the rail network but not directly to passengers travelling to or from Edinburgh Airport.

    If the option of developing EISL is to be taken forward, or at least preserved as a development option, it would be preferable for the Government to agree that:

    1. The new station at Gogar, providing a link for passengers on the Fife line to join the tram service to the airport, should be constructed south of the A8 road, adjacent to the Gyle shopping centre, to maximise the option for the future grade separated junction for EISL A2 or B2; and

    2. The Dalmeny chord should not be constructed because its function could be fulfilled better and more cost effectively by the proposed junction arrangements as part of the EISL A2 or EISL B3 proposals.

    Edinburgh trams

    The Edinburgh tram route is under construction. When complete in 2011, it will provide a frequent service from Leith, through the centre of Edinburgh, to the airport, as shown in Figure 3. The business case Edinburgh Tram Network (ETN) Final Business Case, Version 2, 7 December 20074 for the trams indicates 6 trams per hour on the route to the airport.

    The trams will call at Haymarket station and Edinburgh Park station en route to the airport. The Government’s proposal for the new Gogar station includes an interchange with the trams at that station also.

    Figure 4 is an aerial view of the western end of the route. This is plotted using the drawings available at www.tramtime.com. It shows the line passing to the south of Edinburgh Park station and crossing the E&G line on a viaduct. The line passes through Edinburgh Park to the Gyle shopping centre where the 2005 amendments to the route now take it parallel to the road south west of the car park. From there, the tram line enters a tunnel under the A8 road to emerge north of the A8 by the tram depot. The line then travels west to Gogar burn, and on to the Ingliston Park & Ride and the airport.

    There are no drawings evident in the public domain that show the Government’s proposal for a tram-train interchange at Gogar. It is not obvious where the station will be sited nor whether an additional or relocated tram stop will be provided. The tram line is very steep where it passes under the A8, with gradients of 1:17. It is not obvious how this interchange will be provided. We have assumed that the station will be south of the A8 road to enable passengers to use the currently planned tram stop at Gyle.

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