THE possible re-opening of Reston Station was the subject of debate at the Scottish Parliament last week but while campaigners in favour of it felt that it had met with a positive response and appreciated the cross party support, there were still no promises from the Scottish Government that the funding can be found.
Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP John Lamont called for the debate and he sought a commitment from the Government that Transport Scotland would pay for the next stage of the feasibility report and also that the option of local rail services is kept open when the new rail franchise is agreed.
“Unless the project has the political backing of the Scottish National Party Government, it is going nowhere,” said Mr Lamont. “If the minister believes that the money cannot be found or that the business case cannot be made, I urge him to come clean and say so. It is better that the campaigners know where they stand rather than be given false hope.”
Transport Minister, Keith Brown, acknowledged the cross-party support for improving rail services between Edinburgh and Berwick, including the re-opening of Reston and East Linton Stations, but pointed out that so far the case for the two stations “is marginal”.
He said: “The proposal for the local rail services to Berwickshire and East Lothian is progressing to the next stage of development, but I caution John Lamont about trying to get a definitive and conclusive response now. He should do that when the best possible case has been made for the additional services or stations.
“If the additional study can improve the business case and the affordability of the proposals, the Scottish ministers will be in a better position to consider whether and when the proposals can be implemented.”
Campaign group RAGES (Rail Action Group East of Scotland) were praised by politicans from all parties for their commitment to the quest for improved local rail services in East Lothian and Berwickshire, which left RAGES chairman, Tom Thorburn, “humbled”.
Mr Thornburn said: “That really gave us a boost for the all the hard work we have done.
“There were some good points came out of the debate.”
Updated population figures, further consultation with community councils etc and the tourism potential of the eastern Borders will be looked at now, and RAGES are confident that the findings will help strengthen the case for re-opening Reston Station.
SNP MSP for the South of Scotland, Paul Wheelhouse from Ayton, said; “I am in no doubt that the will of the people across the region is behind this campaign. I was certainly encouraged, as were those RAGES colleagues I spoke to after the debate, by what I heard from the Minister in his closing speech.”
Jim Hume, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for South Scotland and Transport Spokesperson, added: “The socio-economic benefits from constructing these new stations are compelling.
“While much of last year’s study is a good piece of work, myself and many campaigners will dispute some of its points. For example, they estimate just 8,700 people would form the ‘drive-in’ catchment for a new Reston station, but Scottish Borders Council estimates it would be at least 14,000. The study’s estimate doesn’t take into account the untapped potential from tourism by opening up this corner of Scotland to the rail network.”