Councils pledge to fund local rail service

The potential for a new train station at Reston in Berwickshire is a step closer. Picture by Zoltan Simonffy
The potential for a new train station at Reston in Berwickshire is a step closer. Picture by Zoltan Simonffy

The cost of improving local rail services in Berwickshire and East Lothian is estimated at £7.1 million and the two councils are prepared to contribute 40%.

A joint bid has been submitted this week by East Lothian and Scottish Borders Councils to the Scottish Stations Fund to help towards the remaining 60% to re-open Reston Station and a station at East Linton. In their bid the two councils also indicate other possible funding sources such as European funding and developer contributions over and above their joint commitment of £2.84 million (£1.56 million East Lothian and £1.28 million SBC).

The submission of the bid is the culmination of years of endeavour by both local authorities, the regional transport partnership SEStran, local rail campaign group RAGES and local MSPs.

In November last year Transport Scotland said that the five companies bidding for the new ScotRail franchise would need to consider new stations at East Linton and Reston as part of its submission.

In their funding bid the two councils say: “A 40% contribution is very significant”, adding “both councils place a very high priority on this project and there is a willingness to enter into further discussion on funding if necessary to understand what would be required to secure the investment in both stations.”

Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for roads and infrastructure, Councillor Gordon Edgar, said: “The joint bid to the Scottish Government’s Rail Station Fund is a clear indication that Scottish Borders Council and our partners in the working group are dedicated to providing a local service between Edinburgh and Berwick-upon-Tweed.

“We hope the Scottish Government recognises our joint commitment and support our funding bid.”

A hope echoed by Councillor Michael Veitch, East Lothian Council’s Transport spokesman, who said: “I very much hope that the Scottish Government throws it full weight behind the bid and get this long awaited project signed off.”

SEStran chair, Councillor Russell Imrie, said: “SEStran fully supports the campaign to improve services on the Berwick-upon-Tweed line to Edinburgh and to extend access to rail in East Lothian, by opening Stations at Reston and East Linton.

“It would open up access to rail travel for thousands of commuters in East Lothian and the Borders, and offer major benefits for the local economies and tourism.

An increase in passenger numbers in south east Scotland is already being experienced - up by 7% in the past two years. The councils’ bid highlights this as evidence that there is a ready market for new local rail services between Edinburgh and Berwick upon Tweed, adding weight to their case.