Renewed hope for Reston station plan

AFTER rail campaigners south of the Border received good news about Belford station this week, Berwickshire action group RAGES are hoping that it will soon be full steam ahead for the re-opening of the station at Reston.

And they have assurances that their campaign still has the full support of Scottish Borders Council, with Leader, Councillor David Parker saying the improvement of rail services across the Borders would be "a massive win win" for everyone in the region.

A total of 600,000 has been allocated from Northumberland County Council's Regional Funding for Passenger Transport Improvement for development work at Belford and if the scheme is given the green light by the council's Executive next week, the money will be spent on platform facilities, car parking and an access road.

This will grant passengers access to a local service to and from Newcastle via Chathill.

Residents in Belford have been campaigning since 1999 to get the station re-opened and RAGES (Rail Action Group East of Scotland) have been calling for Reston station to go the same way for the past seven years, presenting a 1,862 petition to the Scottish Parliament in 2002.

They received a boost when the station was included in the Scottish Borders Structure Plan 2001-2011 but since then progress has been slow to say the least.

There was some good news last year when Minister for Transport Stewart Stevenson met with RAGES and agreed to commit the Scottish Government to funding a development study into the re-opening of stations at Reston and East Linton, as well as the introduction of an hourly service between Edinburgh and Dunbar.

The study, based on STAG principles, is due to commence shortly and RAGES received word last week that Scot Rail were ready to tender for consultants to carry this out.

Whilst praising Northumberland County Council for their plans for Belford, RAGES vice chairman Barry Forrest said he hoped there would also be light at the end of the tunnel for Reston station.

He commented: "I'd like to congratulate the County Council and only hope that the approval goes through and Reston will eventually follow suit.

"We've just heard that Scot Rail are due to start the procurement process for the development study and are seeking to appoint a team of consultants to help carry this out.

"The study was due to start at the end of last year and it was frustrating that things were put back but it was encouraging to hear that Scot Rail are now pushing ahead."

Barry said that after learning of Northumberland County Council's proposals to improve transport links in their region, he hoped Scottish Borders Council were still very much on board with the RAGES campaign, adding that the heavy snow of last month showed just how beneficial a working station at Reston would be.

I'd like to see Scottish Borders Council be more public in its support for our campaign and show it's fully behind us," he continued.

"I also hope that when the time comes councillors will have a positive response to the study.

"Northumberland County Council has shown their support for Belford and now we know that the Waverley line is definitely going ahead, I'd like to see the same from SBC.

"People ask me all the time 'when is Reston station opening?' and when we had all the snow everyone was saying they would have been able to get to Edinburgh and Berwick if it was up and running again, but instead they couldn't get anywhere as roads were blocked.

"At one time Berwickshire had five working stations but now, as we all well know, there isn't a single one. A station at Reston wouldn't only benefit people in the village but also those in Ayton, Chirnside, Duns and Eyemouth - it would serve the whole area. For a wee while we thought the campaign had 'hit the buffers' but things are looking positive at the moment. I hope the outcomes of the study will be positive and I'd urge everyone who wants the re-opening to happen to write to their local MP and MSP to show their support."

And Berwickshire MSP, John Lamont said that the plans for Belford showed that big improvements could be made relatively cheaply.

"There's been frustration for a long time that more has not been done to get Reston Station developed. While I'm pleased that the Transport Minister gave his commitment for the development study to be opened, there comes a point when concrete action needs to be taken.

"What Northumberland County Council have shown is that the potential is there for improvements to be carried out relatively quickly and cheaply.

"All of the Borders needs to benefit from investment in public transport and the re-opening of Reston station would greatly enhance transport links for everyone in the region."

Speaking to 'The Berwickshire News' earlier this week, Councillor David Parker and SBC's strategic transportation planning manager, Brian Young said that, like it had been from the start, Scottish Borders Council is still right behind RAGES, and its commitment to their campaign was by no means stifled by the forthcoming Borders railway.

Councillor Parker commented: "Scottish Borders Council is fully supportive of the case for Reston and we have worked hard with RAGES and Transport Scotland to make the case for the station and for rail services to return to eastern Berwickshire.

"We believe that rail services to Berwickshire would in fact complement the Borders Railway and both developments would be a massive win win."