FOLLOWING a meeting at East Lothian Council on Friday, RAGES, the local compaigners who have battled for close to a decade to see the re-opening of a rail link at Reston, say it’s “now or never” for the station.
Discussions in Haddington were centred on the recently published Local Rail Study by MVA Consultancy, commissioned by Transport Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government.
The survey dealt with the feasibility of having fully operational stations at East Linton and Reston and chairing Friday’s meeting, Paul McLennan, leader of East Lothian Council, raised a number of issues in regard to both.
One of the main bones of contention raised was that there has been no investment in rail services since the 1990s for this part of Scotland and with no decent transport infrastructure, the eastern Borders is losing its younger generation.
And with submissions for the ScotRail franchise consultation starting this month, vice chairman of RAGES, Barrie Forrest said this would be the last chance in a long time to have the situation rectified.
He said: “We see absolutely no reason why Reston shouldn’t be a station once again. It has been suggested that buses are a suitable alternative for commuters but this just isn’t feasible as they take too long. The re-opening of Reston has got to happen for this area of the Borders or we’re at risk of falling even further behind when it comes to transport.
“I’ve lived in Reston all my days and I remember the good times when the auction mart was up and running and many people were catching the train from miles around. There is no reason why we can’t see these numbers again. We’re blessed with a great tourist area here; we’ve got St Abbs, Coldingham and Eyemouth on our doorstep and further inland Coldstream and Duns; there’s plenty for visitors to see.
“But with the ScotRail franchise being renewed in 2014; plans to re-open the station have to happen now. Billions have been spent between Edinburgh and Glasgow, a few million is nothing these days.”
Another local body pushing for the launch of a station at Reston, thought to cost in the region of £2.5 million, is Eyemouth Town Community Council and in a letter to RAGES, chair Johanna Pawley said: “We are aware that government bodies, other organisations and local authorities view the Borders on the same level as the Highlands as we have large spaces between settlements and the populations are about the same. The difference for Borderers is that there are no railway stations anywhere in our area and yet we believe there are in excess of 50 in the Highlands.”
Barrie added that with East Lothian Council speaking out in support of East Linton it was crucial that Scottish Borders Council did the same for Reston and it would appear the local authority are behind the campaign with Graeme Johnstone, Principal Officer, Strategic Transportation at SBC commenting: “Scottish Borders Council is supportive of the re-establishment of a local rail service to Eastern Berwickshire, which would hopefully include the provision of new station facilities at East Linton and Reston.”
Berwickshire politicians John Lamont and Paul Wheelhouse were also at Friday’s meeting and John told ‘The Berwickshire News’ it was crucial that the wave of support at local level and the impact of the project on the economic regeneration of the eastern Borders was conveyed to the Government when RAGES meet with the Transport Minister on Wednesday.
Like Barrie, Paul said now was the time to act, adding: “It is at times a very frustrating process, and we have some way to go yet, but if we reflect on where we are now, the prospect of restoring services at Reston has never been closer. We believe Scotrail are sympathetic to extending their services south from Dunbar, while due to the cost of running a car, rail passenger numbers are at their highest since the 1920s.”