Dutch rail operators Abellio has been awarded the new ScotRail franchise and will take over from First ScotRail in April next year.
When rail companies tendered for the new franchise they were told to include costings for a new local service between Edinburgh and Berwick, which includes new stations at Reston and East Linton and local politicians and campaigners will be making sure that it stays high on the agenda.
South of Scotland Lib Dem MSP, Jim Hume, said: “It was hugely significant that the Scottish Government told bidders for the ScotRail franchise at the beginning of the tendering process that they should give consideration to services at Reston in their submissions.
“It’s taken many years of campaigning by RAGES (Rail Action Group East of Scotland) to get to this point and it’s clear that there’s widespread support and commitment from the various agencies for rail services at Reston, a move that would undoubtedly be a boon for those communities.
“It’s vitally important that the winning bidder, Abellio, now works with the Scottish Government, Scottish Borders Council and RAGES in making services at Reston a reality.”
Russell Darling of RAGES added: “Having had good relationships with First Group, RAGES now looks forward to engaging with Abellio to further our aims for East Lothian and Berwickshire.
“Most of all is the local service between Edinburgh and Berwick with re-opened stations at East Linton and Reston. It is hoped that Abellio put forward a good case in the priced option part of the bid for this local service and that along with the councils’ excellent bid for funding from the Scottish Government’s Station Investment Fund and the several studies done over the past few years, the Minister for Transport will be persuaded to approve this project.”
Berwickshire MSP John Lamont is also making sure the new service remains on the agenda and while welcoming news about the new franchise operators he was disappointed that the Government made no mention of the investment needed for re-opening Reston Station.
“The campaign for restoring local train services to Berwickshire has been gathering more and more momentum over the past few years, and Scottish Borders Council is now committed to providing significant investment,” said Mr Lamont.
“Re-opening Reston station would provide a huge boost to the local economy, and provide rail services to around 10,000 people in the local area. I have written to the Minister for Transport asking him to meet with me, local rail campaigners and the new franchisee to discuss how the re-opening of Reston station will be incorporated into their plans.”
New trains, revamped stations, faster inter-city services, a ‘Great Scenic Railway scheme bringing more tourists to the north, the south west and the Borders’ and major shopping developments at stations at Aberdeen and Inverness are all included in the £6 billion, ten year contract. However, in making the announcement last week and highlighting the improvements promised, Transport Minister Keith Brown made no mention of local services in East Lothian and Berwickshire.