WITH a month left before the consultation on the Rail Franchise Review closes, RAGES have, in their words, taken “another step in the right direction” on their quest to having rail services running at Reston once again.
The local campaigners met at Haddington last Friday and were joined by representatives from Scottish Borders Council and East Lothian Council as well as a host of Borders politicians.
The meeting concentrated primarily on the necessary requirements to provide a submission to the Scottish Government as part of the consultation on the Franchise Review, but also high on the agenda was Transport Minister Keith Brown’s apparent requirement for a STAG 2 appraisal for new services to Dunbar and new stations at Reston and East Linton.
After some clarification through a meeting with Transport Scotland, it was agreed that a STAG (Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance) 2 would be required but “proportionate and sufficient” to reinforce the outcomes of the STAG 1.
There are still concerns in regard to the passenger figures stated in a recent study, particularly for the Reston station as it would appear that only commuter traffic was included.
However, RAGES state there will be “significant visitor traffic” at Reston and these numbers could be obtained via Visit Scotland and the local community councils who were not apparently consulted at the time of the study.
It is envisaged that the STAG 2 appraisal will take no longer than six months to complete but before then RAGES must welcome the Transport Minister to the region.
A date of Tuesday, February 28, has now been agreed for the visit - one week after the Rail Franchise consultation closes.
During his time in the area, Mr Brown MSP will visit East Linton, Reston and Eyemouth and vice chairman of RAGES, Barrie Forrest, hopes the Minister will see for himself how important the re-opening of Reston station was for Berwickshire.
“As we’ve been saying all along it is absolutely essential for the region that both Reston and East Linton are in action once again and I hope the Transport Minister will see that that is the way forward.
“It’s frustrating to see money being spent on rail schemes in other parts of the country while we’re continually left out.
“I was impressed with how last week’s meeting went, it was another step in the right direction and I think it’s crucial the two councils and politicians are firmly onboard.”
One of the politicians present last Friday was Berwickshire MSP John Lamont. A long time supporter of RAGES he said the Government’s backing of their campaign was crucial for not just Berwickshire but the whole of the Borders.
He said: “The shortage of rail services in the Borders is deeply worrying and it is about time something was done about it. Those living in Reston and the eastern Borders desperately need a reliable link to Berwick, Dunbar and Edinburgh and the reopening of Reston Station would provide this. We have made the case to the Transport Minister several times but so far the SNP Government has failed to give the project its full support.
“Research has shown that the Scottish Borders is in danger of rural marginalisation so it is more important than ever that we take measures to reverse this. A station in East Berwickshire could operate as a transport hub for the surrounding area which is home to around 10,000 people and provide a welcome boost to the local economy.
Jim Hume agreed, adding: “The reopening of the station makes complete sense as it will join up eastern Berwickshire with Edinburgh and Berwick, and it will significantly improve journeys for work and leisure.
“The recent feasibility study published in September last year was clear that there is a business case for the reopening of Reston.”
Leader of East Lothian Council, Paul McLennan, chaired the meeting and commented: “This was a very positive meeting engaging MSPs and councillors from all main parties and shows the support for an hourly rail service to Dunbar along with new stations in East Linton and Reston.”