Politics could derail Reston station plans

editorial image

Delays to trains stopping at Reston and East Linton again are beginning to look increasingly likely before such services have even begun.

Plans for the opening of the two stations and a local train service between Edinburgh and Berwick could end up falling victim to a disagreement between the Conservative UK Government and its Scottish National Party counterpart here.

The Scottish Government says UK ministers’ funding for rail services in Scotland is £600m less than expected.

Borders MP John Lamont, however, contends that the UK Government’s £3.6bn investment in Scotland’s railways over five years could pay for 360 Reston stations.

Politicians on all sides are agreed in their support for the local rail service and new stations, but the project is now becoming a tool for Conservative and SNP politicians to beat political lumps out of each other.

And looking on from the side lines in increasing dismay is Rail Action Group East Scotland (Rages), which has fought hard for over a decade for a local rail service.

A Rages spokesperson said this week: “The Rages committee would ask members to write to the minister urging him not to delay the reopening of our stations given the relatively small funding that is required.”

Humza Yousaf, Scottish minister for transport, said: “The UK Government has departed from our agreed funding formula, leaving Scotland’s railways £600m short.

“This will undoubtedly impact upon our ability to enhance Scotland’s rail network.”

Mr Lamont’s view on Scotland’s rail funding, a devolved matter, is somewhat different, though.

He said: “The cost of reopening Reston station is a mere drop in the ocean when compared to the massive £3.6bn boost from Westminster. The SNP need to stop dragging their feet over this and start work as soon as possible.”

Even at council level, the two parties cannot agree on how to progress the Reston Station project, and in last week’s Berwickshire News, East Bewickshire councillor Helen Laing criticised Scottish Borders Council’s Conservative-led executive for voting down an SNP motion “to use their influence on their Westminster colleagues to put pressure on Network Rail for firm timescales regarding preliminary work, so that the reopening of Reston Station can be on schedule for the early part of control period six (2019-24).”

It was defeated by 19 votes to 11, with all Tory members voting against it.