Recent news that Edinburgh Airport is to increase road capacity to its terminal is a sure sign that public transport to Scotland’s busiest airport needs to improve.
The Scottish government dropped plans for a rail link in 2007 even after Holyrood’s parliament secured royal assent. This would have seen a new link and station tunnelled under the runways and was dropped on cost grounds.
In its place came Edinburgh Gateway station which shares a site with a stop on Edinburgh’s tram link between the city centre and airport. It sits on the Fife Circle line, opened in December 2016 and saw 0.28m passengers in 2017/18.
Set those 0.28m passenger against the airport’s 14.3m for 2018 (8.9m international and 5.4m domestic) and it’s clear that rail and tram do not make a good combination for airport access. To my mind, two problems exist – Gateway has no direct access from Glasgow and the tram financially penalises those using it to reach the airport.
Tram passengers pay £1.70 for a single ticket between any two stops. This applies as far as Ingliston Park and Road, which is the stop before the airport. To travel beyond Ingliston, a single fare is £6. For that extra £4.30 you travel a little over half a mile. That’s quite a price hike for such a short distance.
Part of the dropped Edinburgh Airport Rail Link (EARL) included a short chord at Dalmeny to create a triangular junction. Such a link would allow trains from Glasgow to take the Winchburgh line at that eponymous junction and then head north over the Forth Bridge to Fife (as they must today) or south to Edinburgh, passing the threshold of the airport’s main, and now only, runway.
Until its closure last year, the second runway stood in the way of building a people mover directly from an airport station (built where Turnhouse Road crosses the Fife Circle line) to the terminal. But this station would be only a mile from Edinburgh Gateway and the latter already has a people mover straight to the airport.
Better then for Transport Scotland to rename Gateway as Edinburgh Airport and arrange with the tram operator that rail tickets include the nine-minute hop to the terminal building.
Meanwhile, there’s another reason to build Dalmeny Chord (also known as Almond Chord) and that’s to relieve congestion between Newbridge Junction and Haymarket. Newbridge is where ScotRail’s four trains per hour from the Airdrie-Bathgate line meet its 4tph from Glasgow Queen Street via Falkirk High Level, 2tph from Dunblane and 2tph from Queen Street via Falkirk Grahamston. When I randomly checked a 1000-1100 period, I found 27 trains crossing the flat junction at Newburgh, with NR’s timetable rules insisting on 2.5 minutes between trains coming from Winchburgh and those from Bathgate.
Those 27 use a pair of tracks to and from Haymarket. Some relief comes from a single-lead ladder at Haymarket Central which can switch them to or from the northern pair of Haymarket’s four approach lines (the northern pair run to Fife). Otherwise they use the southern pair and join ScotRail’s hourly Glasgow Central stoppers as well as less frequent CrossCountry, Virgin Trains and TransPennine Express services immediately west of Haymarket’s Platforms 3 and 4.
This adds up to a very busy rail corridor for which Dalmeny Chord could provide relief. Send some of those Glasgow and Dunblane trains via the new chord and they no longer conflict with Airdrie-Bathgate services, those long-distance trains from England and Central’s stoppers. And they provide more direct links to Edinburgh Gateway (Airport!) station.
Perhaps that will redress the balance between private and public transport to Scotland’s main airport.
This article first appeared in RAIL 871.