Government commits £11m to new stations

The east coast mainline at Reston.
The east coast mainline at Reston.

Scottish Transport Minister Humza Yusaf is believed to have confirmed that the Government will foot half the bill new railway stations at Reston and East Linton.

The minister met with members of Rail Action Group East Scotland (RAGES) to discuss progress on the new local service between Edinburgh and Berwick, including the two new stations.

Also at the meeting were MSPs Iain Gray and John Lamont, SESTran members, and representatives of East Lothian and Scottish Borders councils. A spokesman for RAGES said: “The minister made the announcement that the Scottish Government was now able to commit to 50% funding of the latest construction costs of the two stations.

“It is assumed that this means £11m. Along with the already committed funding of £3m from the two councils, this still leaves a gap of £8m.”

Initially, the cost of the two new stations was estimated at £7m, but latest costings by Network Rail show what RAGES describes as “a staggering increase”, apparently due to “several technical issues with the railway infrastructure”.

The previous Scottish transport minister had promised to cover the 50% funding required to complete the stations, but when the potential cost rose from £7mn to £22m, he was not prepared to make a pre-Scottish Government election commitment for the extra £8m.

After the elections and the appointment of a new Transport Minister, RAGES was anxious to discuss the issue with him as a matter of urgency and confirm the Government’s commitment to the project.

Mr Yusaf suggested that the councils make a bid for the gap in funding from the Edinburgh city deal, another source of finance from a joint UK and Scottish Governments and private-sector scheme, and they are pursuing that and other sources of funds.

The prospect of transferring the project of developing a local rail service and new stations to Transport Scotland was also discussed, but this could only be done once the funding is in place.

RAGES has serious doubts about whether Transport Scotland would maintain the impetus of achieving the “promised” date of December 2018 for the start of the new service, and the pressure group has already acknowledged that date is “looking more unlikely”.

A public meeting with ScotRail Alliance’s managing director, Phil Verster, has been organised by RAGES for Monday at 7pm at Prestonpans Town Hall. On the agenda is the Edinburgh to North Berwick and Dunbar service and the future service to Berwick.