Massive expansion for Edinburgh Trams on the horizon – and could Glasgow join in too?

The Scottish Government have this week released details of their second Strategic Transport Projects Review and contained within the report are a few interesting plans which, if they come to fruition, could see a massive expansion of the Edinburgh Trams system with a plan for a Metro service in Glasgow too while light rail is also mentioned in connection with Aberdeen.

The aim of the second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2) is to accelerate economic recovery and to lay the groundwork for an inclusive, greener transport network that will be at the heart of future transport investment in Scotland. The review will help to deliver the vision, priorities and outcomes for transport set out in the National Transport Strategy (NTS2). Phase One has now been published with Phase Two to be concluded later this year and combined these will set out Scottish Government’s priorities for the next 20 years.

The hefty report (which can be downloaded from the Scottish Government website – link at the end of this article) has many proposals for improving transport across Scotland and there isn’t the space to cover absolutely everything here. But looking at it from a tram and light rail perspective there are three areas of Scotland which are mentioned:

  • Glasgow Metro – development of the public transport network within the Glasgow city region, with consideration of bus rapid transport, rail conversion, light rail and underground elements
  • Edinburgh Mass Transit Options – development of the public transport network within the Edinburgh City Region with consideration of bus rapid transit, rail conversion and tram network extension
  • Aberdeen Mass Transit Options – Development of the public transport network within the Aberdeen City Region, with consideration of bus rapid transit and light rail

The Glasgow Metro plan is said to be an “umbrella term or brand to describe a new level of public transport provision to serve and improve connectivity within the Glasgow conurbation”. It hasn’t been decided which specific modes of transport would be used but it may include one or more of bus rapid transit, tram, light rail and/or metro rail with an integration with current bus and heavy rail routes. Phase one of the STPR2 will be focusing on why Glasgow and the wider city region would benefit from the Glasgow Metro. Then the project would be further developed and appraised in the remainder of STPR2.

Over in Edinburgh and the Edinburgh Mass Transit would be an “enhanced level of public transport provision in the city region, including Bus Rapid Transit and Tram. It would complement and integrate with the current bus, tram and heavy rail networks, providing improved connectivity”. Much of this is already being led by the City of Edinburgh Council through the Edinburgh Strategic Sustainable Transport Strategy Phase 2 with the main focus of that being linking Granton in the north of the city through the city centre to the south and east extremities of the city.

Phase One of the STPR2 will be looking at why Edinburgh would benefit from the project with Transport Scotland also continuing to engage closely with the Council over the future plans. As will as the plan to extend the public transport network – most likely with trams – north, south and east it is suggested that there could be a cross-Forth Light Rail Transit system to Fife as well as increasing the frequency of mass transit services to Edinburgh from neighbouring authorities.

The Aberdeen Mass Transit Options are not included in the 20 projects of Phase 1 so we will have to wait and see what light rail could mean in that context later in 2021 when more details are released on the STPR2.

Michael Mathieson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, said: “As we continue to navigate our way through an unprecedented global health emergency, the investment decisions we make have never been so important. We want to lock in the changes to the healthy, green travel options we’ve seen during the pandemic, while supporting interventions that will aid and help accelerate economic recovery. We are conducting a thorough, evidence-based review of the performance of Scotland’s strategic transport network across active travel, bus, ferry, rail and the trunk road network and my thanks go to everyone who is engaged in that process, particularly our Regional Transport Working Groups. Phase One sets out some of our transport investment priorities for the next few years, which will support a fair and sustainable economic recovery from the pandemic, while working towards our longer term goals of making Scotland more accessible for residents, visitors and businesses; improving connectivity and highlighting the vital contribution that transport investment can play in enabling and sustaining Scotland’s economic growth. STPR2 will help us to deliver the vision, priorities and outcomes set out in our National Transport Strategy as well as aligning with other important national plans such as the Climate Change Plan, Infrastructure Investment Plan and National Planning Framework.”

While the STPR2 at this stage for trams and light rail seems to be at the stage of talking about things and seeing what could be achieved it is clearly a very ambitious plan for improving public transport throughout Scotland. For Edinburgh this should see extensions to the tram system – although much of what is mentioned in regards to this is not new as the Council had already started these discussions – while for Glasgow could there finally be a return of trams to the city? The much discussed Glasgow Airport link seems to be back in for potential light rail and the report does also mention trams in the city centre and along the banks of the Clyde.

More on this when details of Phase Two are announced later this year by which time hopefully there will be a bit more flesh on the bones.

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