Hopes for rail service given boost

A campaign for a local rail service between Berwick and Edinburgh has received a boost from the Scottish Government.

Thursday, 21st July 2016, 9:12 am
Barrie Forrest of Rail Action Group East of Scotland (RAGES) is campaigning for the reopening of a train station at Reston. Picture by Zoltan Simonffy

Scottish Transport Minister, Humza Yusaf, is believed to have confirmed that the Government will commit 50 per cent of the costs of new stations at Reston and East Linton.

The minister met with members of Rail Action Group East Scotland (RAGES) to discuss progress with the new local service between Edinburgh and Berwick, including the two new stations.

It is believed the introduction of the service could have a positive economic spin-off for Berwick by increasing its potential as a commuter town and making it more attractive to business.

A statement from RAGES said: ‘The Minister made the announcement that the Scottish Government is now able to commit to 50 per cent funding of the latest construction costs of the two stations. It is assumed that this means £11million. Along with the already committed funding of £3million from the two councils, this still leaves a gap of £8million.’

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Initially, the cost of the two new stations was estimated at £7million but latest costings by Network Rail show what RAGES described as ‘a staggering increase’, apparently due to ‘several technical issues with the railway infrastructure’.

The previous Scottish Transport Minister had promised to cover the 50 per cent funding required to complete the stations but when the potential cost rose from £7million to £22million he was not prepared to make a pre-Scottish Government election commitment for the extra £8million.

After the elections and the appointment of a new Transport Minister, RAGES was anxious to discuss the issue with him as a matter of urgency and confirm the Government commitment to the project.

Mr Yusaf suggested that the councils make a bid for the gap in funding from the Edinburgh City Deal, another source of finance from a joint UK and Scottish Governments and private sector scheme, and they are pursuing this and other sources of funds.

The prospect of transferring the project of developing a local rail service and new stations to Transport Scotland was also discussed but this could only be done once the funding is in place.

RAGES hasserious doubts about whether Transport Scotland would maintain the impetus of achieving the ‘promised’ date of December 2018 for the start of the new service. It has already acknowledged that this timescale is ‘looking more unlikely’.