Winchburgh Railway Station

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 27 April 2022.

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Photo of Foysol Choudhury Foysol Choudhury Labour

6. To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with Transport Scotland, Network Rail, Winchburgh Developments Limited and West Lothian Council relating to the provision of a railway station at Winchburgh. (S6O-01003)

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

Winchburgh Developments Limited is responsible for the provision of a new station at Winchburgh. The Scottish ministers and the principal funder of Winchburgh Developments met twice in 2020 to discuss the proposed railway station. In 2021 there was one further meeting between the chief executive officer of Transport Scotland and the principal funder of Winchburgh Developments.

I am shortly meeting with the local constituency MSP, Fiona Hyslop, to discuss the matter, on which I know that Ms Hyslop has campaigned tirelessly for some time. Like her, I am keen to ensure that we all work together, including with the local authority and the developer, to make progress on the new station.

Photo of Foysol Choudhury Foysol Choudhury Labour

The people of Winchburgh were first promised a railway station 15 years ago, but Transport Scotland would not let West Lothian Council make the station a condition of the development. We now hear that, as a result, there may be no station at all. Would the minister consider visiting Winchburgh with me to see for herself the massive scale of development and the folly of a nation in a declared climate emergency forcing hundreds of new residents into cars and private transport?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

It is important to remember, and it may interest the member to know, that there are no cases of developer-funded stations in Scotland at the moment. I think that there are at least two cases of developer-funded stations in England. However, funding towards those new stations is requested through the rail enhancement budget, and it is worth noting that the proposal for a station at Winchburgh came from the developer, not the Government, along with the developer’s offer to fund the station itself. That came at a much lower estimated cost in terms of the costs associated at the time.

Mr Choudhury talked about a meeting. I have previously committed to meet Ms Hyslop. If the member will let me first meet Ms Hyslop, I will be more than happy to follow that up with further detail for him.

Photo of Sue Webber Sue Webber Conservative

The city region deal for Edinburgh and south-east Scotland was signed off by six local authorities, the United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Government. The deal included 5,000 new homes in Winchburgh. Thanks to a West Lothian official, we know that Transport Scotland blocked an attempt to make the construction of a new station at Winchburgh a condition of planning permission for the houses. With a hammer blow of taxes hanging over the families who choose to live in Winchburgh but work in Edinburgh, will the cabinet secretary now prioritise funding for the station, which will provide a genuine alternative to the car for many?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

I have to remind the member that the proposal came from the developer. It did not come from Transport Scotland, nor am I aware of any Transport Scotland officials blocking the proposal.

As I outlined in my previous response, I am more than happy to meet the developer to ensure that the proposal comes to fruition, but the proposal originally came from the developer, which also committed to fund it.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I thank the minister for agreeing to meet me and I point out that the cabinet secretary previously visited Winchburgh to see the potential there.

Winchburgh is likely to grow to a similar size to Linlithgow, which has one of the busiest stations in Scotland. Of course, the financial crash in 2010 caused significant disruption to everything, not least the development of Winchburgh. There is a bit of rewriting of history, in relation to what West Lothian Council could and should have done with regard to development.

Does the minister agree that the most sensible thing to do is get all the relevant public bodies together? Network Rail has already indicated to me that there is a possibility of driving costs down, given previous experience of building stations. Creative solutions can and should be found. The Edinburgh and south-east Scotland city region deal may be a vehicle through which we can make sure that we close the funding gap. My constituents—most certainly those who have bought houses in Winchburgh—deserve a station, and we all need to work positively and proactively together to make it happen.

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

Fiona Hyslop is absolutely right. We need to get all relevant parties around the table and we need to look at creative solutions, so I give her that commitment.

On the city region deal, of course, as has been mentioned, global priorities have perhaps changed since the time of its inception. The Scottish Government recognises that those priorities can change, and we are always looking to discuss potential changes to the deal, should partners—this has to be about local authority partners—wish to propose them and provided that they meet the associated eligibility criteria. I note that the recent West Lothian Council board notes state that the developer and the council will ask the Edinburgh and south-east Scotland city region deal for a contribution to the station.