Transport Minister visits Reston

AN important step in the case for re-opening Reston station was made on Tuesday when Transport Minister Stuart Stevenson visited the region.

The lack of accessible rail links in eastern Berwickshire has been a bone of contention for many years now and pressure group RAGES (Rail Action Group, Eastern Scotland) have long been campaigning for the re-opening of what they feel would be a valuable facility both in terms of transport and the local economy.

Mr Stevenson made an official site visit to Reston early on Tuesday afternoon alongside Conservative MSP for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, John Lamont, members of RAGES and representatives from Scottish Borders Council.

Speaking after the visit, his first to Berwickshire, Mr Stevenson said that he could see definite potential in Reston station and recognised why local residents are so keen to see it up and running again.

"It was very useful for me to be able to go and see the proposed site that I'd heard so much about previously," said the Transport Minister.

"It's clear that new housing developments in the area could benefit significantly from having added public transport and its vital that such developments make a contribution to the public transport infrastructure. Reston Station is in the centre of a catchment area of towns and villages that would all welcome the positives of having an extra rail link.

"The economic case for the re-opening of Reston station requires further work but I will be watching with interest and I hope the government agency Transport Scotland will work together with RAGES and the local council to help things progress.

"From people I've spoken to today and things I've heard previously it's clear that the public are very enthusiastic about getting a railway station in Berwickshire. It was so important that I came down to Reston, not just to see the site but also to meet everyone involved in the campaign.

"It is important the economics stack up and the Borders is generally an area that is underperforming economically. Improving the transport infrastructure would be one way of increasing opportunities for people in the region as a whole. But it's also vital that the eastern Borders and Berwickshire shouldn't be forgotten about as they have their own distinct needs."

Local MSP John Lamont acknowledged that the case for Reston station has been strengthened following the Scottish Government's announcement earlier this year that they plan to progress with the development of a Borders railway and said that the responses to his own survey on the matter showed a great deal of support for RAGES campaign.

"There has been much talk about possible stations at Galashiels and Tweedbank to form part of the new Borders railway but people in Berwickshire want to be able to access this new transport link and it's crucial that there voices are heard too.

"I was completely overwhelmed with the response I had to my survey. Typically you'd expect a four to six per cent return rate, the most I'd ever had to one of my previous surveys was 15. But for this particular one there was a return rate of 55 per cent- that's over 26,000 responses.

"The one thing that's come out loud and clear is that people want to see some strong transport and more accessible transport links in eastern Berwickshire. I feel that the ministerial visit on Tuesday was a great success and came just at the right time.

The man at the helm of the campaign to re-open Reston Station is RAGES chairman Tom Thorburn and he said after years of frustration for the group it was fantastic that a Transport Minister finally came to Berwickshire to look at the site.

"I'm delighted that Stuart could join us today and he seemed to show a lot of enthusiasm for our project. We've met with four different Transport Ministers at Holyrood in relation to the issue but he is the first one to actually come down.

"RAGES know all too well that sadly things move slowly but Stuart seemed very receptive to our plans and what we had to say so you could say I'm now at the 'excited' stage. As far as we're concerned the re-opening of Reston station would be a terrific move and I think a lot of people would agree with us on that."