Outcry stops train mast in its tracks

TRANSPORT REPORTER (aroden@edinburghnews.com)

CAMPAIGNERS have won their battle to stop a giant 29-metre high radio mast being put up in a conservation area.

The towering structure was earmarked for the South Suburban railway line in Newington, as part of Network Rail's plans to improve communications between train drivers and signallers.

Eight of the huge masts are still due to be built across the city, under an EU-wide safety initiative recommended in the wake of the Ladbroke Grove train crash in 1999 which killed 31 people.

But track and maintenance firm Network Rail has bowed to pressure from residents and local Lib Dem politicians over the siting of a mast in the Craigmillar Park Conservation Area.

Instead of one 29-metre mast, two smaller 15-metre structures will be erected - one close to the former Blackford railway station and another near Newington Cemetery. If you have a view on this or any other subject, let us know.
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The move was today welcomed by residents in the area, who said it was a victory for "consultation". Dr Allen Simpson, from Crawfurd Road, and a member of the Craigmillar Park Residents' Association, said: "This is a great relief, because we don't want a 100ft mast spoiling the view of this conservation area. Network Rail realised very early on that this was likely to be unpopular.

"Because this is a conservation area, it's particularly important that the quality of view is not spoilt. One large mast would have been obtrusive, but two smaller masts is a good result for us."

The government-funded masts scheme, which will cost £1.2 billion to install in the whole of the UK, was recommended by Lord Cullen after the Ladbroke Grove train crash. The new technology will allow drivers and signalmen to communicate directly, without having to rely on a signal from neighbouring mobile phone masts or on-train communications systems, which were installed 30 years ago.

The system will also allow simultaneous broadcast calls so that all drivers in a certain area can be contacted immediately to be warned of an incident or obstacle - and the whereabouts of trains will be more precisely charted, giving passengers more accurate information.

Due to national legislation, Network Rail does not need permission from city planners to build on its land next to railway lines.

The city's planning leader, Councillor Trevor Davies, has already said he would like the council to have more say over the scheme. Local councillor Fred Mackintosh said today: "I'd have preferred if this had gone through the planning system, like mobile phone masts do, but I'm pleased we won't have a giant mast in Newington."

Network Rail originally planned to erect 12 of the masts, but managed to find alternative solutions for three of them following informal discussions with council planners.

The giant masts are still due to go up at Portobello, Craigmillar, Riccarton, Dalmeny, South Gyle, Haymarket, Slateford and Kellerstain.

Previous plans to put extra masts at Waverley, Restalrig and Broxburn have been scrapped and - along with Newington - the structures will be replaced by smaller masts. Work in south Edinburgh is expected to be completed by February.

A spokeswoman for Network Rail said: "Following contact from Councillor Fred Mackintosh, we are pleased that we have managed to come up with an engineering solution that doesn't compromise the effectiveness of our radio communication system, but does take into account the area's conservation status."

Last updated: 13-Nov-06 17:24 GMT

©2006 Scotsman.com

This article: http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=1679032006


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