ALTHOUGH chiefly concerned with travel between England’s bigger cities, what Nick Clegg has described as the “biggest expansion in railway in 150 years” should have a positive impact on journeys north of the border as well, according to local politicians.
Local MP Michael Moore says the £240 million investment in the East Coast Main Line “is certainly good news for the area.”
More than £400m has also been earmarked to increase capacity on routes into northern cities which includes £322 million to fully complete the Northern Hub project.
Once complete, the improvement works will allow for an additional 20,000 commuter trips a day into cities such as Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield during peak hours.
Announcing the scheme, UK Transport Secretary Justine Greening said: “Investment along the East Coast Main Line and in the Northern Hub show how this coalition government is focused on delivering an affordable, reliable and fast-moving railway network that drives jobs and growth.
“These plans to increase capacity and shorten journey times on intercity, commuter and freight services are, alongside our plans for high speed rail, absolutely key to securing prosperity in the North East in the decades ahead.”
Berwickshire MP Michael Moore welcomed the investment, saying that whilst it only applies in England, with the East Coast Mainline straddling the border, any improvement to the line would benefit Borderers using the service to and from the neighbouring country.
But he added that he would continue to push for the re-opening of Reston station to ensure that Berwickshire would at the heart of any future improvements on the Scottish side of the border.
He commented: “I have been campaigning for a rail service for the Borders for many years and this £240million investment in the East Coast Main Line, used by many to travel south and to Edinburgh, is certainly good news for the area.
“This investment, alongside the railway at Tweedbank, is vital for local businesses and rail users and I will continue to campaign to ensure that they provide the best possible service for Borderers.
“I also want to see a station opened at Reston to ensure that we benefit from improvements to the East Coast Main line, right here on home soil.”
Whilst it is not entirely clear how all of the money will be spent to improve the East Coast main line, increased capacity would mean larger trains and it would be up to the Scottish Government to ensure that stations in Scotland could cope with the change.
While he heralded the UK government’s commitment to improving transport links for thousands of passengers, Berwickshire & Roxburgh MSP, John Lamont said he hoped it would prompt their Scottish peers to make similar investments further north.
He commented: “This announcement by the UK Government shows their continued dedication to helping improve the transport network in Britain. It is a substantial investment in our infrastructure and the SNP will now be under pressure to prove that they too want to bring rail travel in Scotland up to standard.
“As people in the Borders know only too well, our rail system is in urgent need of investment, but the SNP have frequently failed to prioritise it in their spending. With the UK Government making such a bold statement with this announcement I hope we will finally see the SNP getting their priorities straight and help improve the quality and access we have to our rail network in this country.”
Local campaign group RAGES have long been of the opinion that the Borders is left out in the cold when it comes to investment in transport, and while secretary Barrie Forrest, also welcomed the UK Government’s modernisation process, he said it would be nice to see it replicated in Scotland.
“We need to see some investment up here. In this area we’ve actually lost services – Alnmouth has a better service now than Dunbar. And while I don’t begrudge Alnmouth when you compare the size of the two that’s ridiculous. All this money is being spent down south and we’re left wondering when we’re going to get some.”