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Isla Whateley: Once upon a time, this railway line took passengers on a loop around the south of Edinburgh. It was closed in the 1960s, but an ongoing campaign seeks to reopen it to passengers.


The South Suburban line was opened in 1884, but passenger services were withdrawn in 1962. Unlike many other services that closed around this time, the line is still open for freight, which means it would be easy to reopen for passenger services.


Here you can see a diagram of public transport across the city, from the Edinburgh City Mobility Plan published in 2021. The South Suburban Line, marked here by a dashed grey line, crosses the south of the city, through key residential areas like Morningside and Newington. I spoke to Daniel Johnson, the MSP for Edinburgh Southern, about the future of the line and how it links up to other public transport developments across the city.


Daniel Johnson: The other thing that’s important to say about the South Sub Loop, is that if you were going to integrate it with the tram network in any way, you would need to use tram trains. Now, those exist, they operate in other countries — in fact, they’re in operation in parts of the United Kingdom now as well. So all of these things are possibilities, and as I said, given where we are and given what we are looking at both in terms of the expansion of the city, I think investment potentially in other bits of infrastructure, and also looking at how we maximise the benefit of the investment that has already gone into the tram line. I think it’s important that we thoroughly examine whether or not the South Sub Loop can be part of that solution, and I believe that it can be.


IW: This map from 2019 shows how, theoretically, the South Suburban Line could link to the existing tram line, which now runs from the airport to Newhaven. In some cities such as Sheffield, tram trains are used to link trams and railway lines. This is one possibility to integrate the line with the new trams. For further clarity, I spoke to Cllr Scott Arthur, who is the convenor of the Transport Committee at the City of Edinburgh Council.


Scott Arthur: So this is where the uncertainty with the Southern Sub is, because traditionally, well in the past the line would’ve come right the way through the city centre, but that’s one of the more congested parts of the railway network. So what we’re looking at is maybe a line that runs from Slateford through Morningside and Newington, up to Portobello. So that’ll be the line which we think can work, we might be able to do more than that, but that’s kind of our starting point.


IW: The council approved a new public transport action plan in January 2023, which includes examining the feasibility of re-opening the South Suburban line. The wheels are clearly in motion, but only time will tell if this route will once again open to passenger travel

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