Station won’t be frozen out

after commuters were left standing on freezing cold platforms after services to and from Dunbar were severely disrupted during the prolonged period of harsh weather last year, Network Rail have told East Lothian MP Iain Gray that “they recognise the importance of the Dunbar commuter market” and they have taken steps to prevent any repeat in 2011.

Although it is still yet to materialise, weather forecasters have predicted that the heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures which blighted Berwickshire and East Lothian last year, will make their presence felt once again before the year is out.

Having received complaints from a number of constituents who were left stranded or forced to seek alternative methods of transport during the worst spells of weather last winter, Iain Gray voiced his concerns to Network Rail.

And in a letter to the MSP, Network Rail’s Route Managing Director, David Simpson said: “A new approach to Key Route Strategy (KRS) implementation has been developed. Specifically in relation to East Lothian, we have taken the approach that our industry priorities in severe weather must ensure Drem and Portobello Junctions are maintained operable.

This allows a service to operate to all stations to North Berwick, as well as to Brunstane and Newcraighall park and ride.

It also ensures strategic longer distance cross-border links to England are protected.

“We do, however, recognise the importance of the Dunbar commuter market and have reflected this in the KRS document, with a three option approach. Two of these options mean Dunbar will continue to be serviced, albeit one of them will be with a reduced service option focused on the morning and evening peak access.

“Only under the worst case option, and the most severe and widespread conditions, would all points at Dunbar have to be ‘locked’ to leave Dunbar un-serviced in favour of protecting the longer distance strategic network resilience.”

Mr Simpson said he couldn’t guarantee that Dunbar will remain unaffected, but hopes that this new approach will mean that Dunbar continues to be serviced for longer and that any disruption will be more limited.

And although he welcomed Network Rail’s recognition of the importance of Dunbar Station to commuters and the new approach to the Key Route Strategy, which should mean that Dunbar station is bypassed less readily than happened last year, Iain Gray said he is disappointed that there is no guarantee that Dunbar will be unaffected during any period of the most severe weather conditions.

In a letter to RAGES, the MSP said he and East Lothian MP, Fiona O’Donnell, will continue to argue for the upgrading of points to end this problem once and for all, but admitted that regrettably that will not happen before this winter sets in.