The Anonymous Widower

Is Waverley Station Good Enough For Edinburgh?

If you arrive in London Kings Cross station, the experience has been transformed over the last few years. Instead of entering a dark concourse crowded with tired retail outlets in a wood and asbestos shed designed in the 1960s, you now have two choices. You can walk to the front of the train, through the barriers and doors and into a large square with seats, buses and entrances to the Underground. Or if the weather isn’t good, you can take an escalator or a lift to the footbridge that spans all of the platforms and enter the covered Western concourse to make your way to onward transport or to one of many cafes, most of which are upmarket.

Other stations that I know well, like Birmingham New Street, Liverpool Lime Street, Manchester Victoria, Newcastle Central and Nottingham have also been transformed into impressive gateways for their cities. Next in line for substantial upgrading are London Euston and Waterloo, Glasgow Queen Street and Cardiff.

Edinburgh Waverley station has had a bit of a tidy up and it now has a set of escalators to get you up to Princes Street, but it is still a dark, cramped station, with no quality cafes in the station.

If I was to give Kings Cross five stars, Newcastle and Nottingham would get four and Waverley scarcely deserves one.

So to answer my original question. The answer is a definite No!

Waverley And The New Borders Railway

In some ways the new Borders Railway is going to make matters worse, as if it is successful, there will be pressure for more services on the line and there may not be enough terminating platforms at the East end of the station. But at least according to the Layout section in the station’s Wikipedia entry, things are being reorganised. This is said.

Former Platforms 8 and 9, which were substantially shortened for use as a Motorail terminus, the infilled area becoming a car park; since the demise of Motorail services these platforms are used only for locomotive stabling, although the numbers 5/6 were reserved for them in the 2006 renumbering. These are to be extended as full length platforms to accommodate terminating CrossCountry and Virgin Trains East Coast services with the taxi rank closed in June 2014 to make way for these works.

On the other hand, the Borders Railway has removed the need to use one of the worst train/bus connections in the UK.

Currently, if you arrive on a train from London and want to get an express bus to the South or the Borders, this necessitates a climb up flights of steps onto the North Bridge, which with heavy bags is impossible, unless you’re stronger and fitter than most.

Now you walk to the bay platform at the East end of the station and get one of the half-hourly trains to Galahiels, where there is a short walk to the bus station to get a convenient bus to all over the Borders and even to Carlisle.

But it is still a long walk from the bay platforms at the East (3 to 6) to the platforms that go West (12 to 18). And the tram is even further to walk.

Buses And Trams At Waverley

Like many main stations in the UK, no thought has been given at Edinburgh to how to efficiently organise the interface between trains and the buses.

I would have thought that when Edinburgh trams were built that they would have reorganised public transport in the city, so that the trams served the station properly. After all in Manchester, Croydon, Sheffield, Nottingham, Liverpool and Newcastle, local light rail, underground or trams serve the main train stations. Only in Blackpool is a walk needed, but that is being remedied.

In my view there are three places for tram stops at Waverley station.

  1. At the top of the escalators that take you between the station and Princes Street. But would this get in the way of the posh cars taking people to and from the Balmoral Hotel?
  2. On Waverley Bridge in front of the station. But where would the tourist buses go to clog up next?
  3. There also could be a Nottingham-style solution, where the trams cross over the station on a bridge at right angles to the train lines. But this would probably be an impossibly difficult project to design and implement.

The trams do serve Haymarket station and I wonder how many visitors to Edinburgh, use that station instead.

Waverley And Princes Street Gardens

After my trip to the Borders Railway, my friend and I went for lunch in a restaurant by the Royal Scottish Academy facing out onto Princes Street Gardens.

It was not an easy walk from the station as once we’d climbed up the escalators, it took several minutes to get across the busy Waverley Bridge in front of the station to get into the civility of the Gardens. This Google Map shows where we walked.

Waverley Station And Princes Street Gardens

Waverley Station And Princes Street Gardens

Over lunch, I asked my friend, who’d lived in Edinburgh nearly all her life, , why there wasn’t a subway between the gardens and the station. She didn’t know and said there never had been! So as I walked back to the station, I took some pictures.

They show no evidence of a subway that might have been closed.

But they do show that if a subway could be built, then Edinburgh could have a World Class meeting place for when the weather was good.

Sorting The Trams

Seeing the map of Waverley station and the Princes Street Gardens, I have a feeling that if they were designing the Edinburgh trams now, they would be very different.

The difference is that in the last few years, tram-trains have come into general use in Germany. The Germans are getting enthusiastic about their use and large systems are being developed in cities like Karlsruhe, Kassel and Chemnitz.

In the UK, a test line is being added to the Sheffield Supertram, but how could tram-trains help solve the problems of Waverley station?

Trams coming from Edinburgh Airport and the West stop at Murrayfield Stadium tram stop and then move onto the street to call at Haymarket  before going down Princes Street. New Class 399 tram-trains, as will be used in Sheffield, would follow the same route as the trams until Murrayfield. Passengers would find the only real difference would be that they had somewhere else on the destination board.

But at Murrayfield they would join the main railway lines and running as trains, they would call at Haymarket and Waverley stations.

The tram-trains could end their journey at Waverley or they could pass through the station and perhaps go on to further destinations like Dunbar or North Berwick. There would be no infrastructure modifications needed East of Waverley station, as the tram-trains would just appear to everything to be just another type of electric train.

If you look at the map in the Proposals for the Edinburgh tram network in Wikipedia, you’ll see this map.

Edinburgh Tram Map

Edinburgh Tram Map

Note there is another Western destinations in addition to the airport and a loop to Newhaven and the Port of Leith. All come together at Haymarket. So services from the West could be run by trams or tram-trains as appropriate and those on the loop would probably be run by trams.

It should also be said, that the tram-trains could go anywhere to the East or West of the City, where there are electrified lines. Even Glasgow!

Edinburgh could have a lot of fun, without digging up the streets too much. Although, they’d probably need to do this, if they were going to extend the tram to Newhaven and the Port of Leith.





September 9, 2015 - Posted by | Transport | , , , , , ,

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