Class 380 EMU at Drem on its first day
Rail Action Group East of Scotland
RAGES

Contents

Aims of RAGES

To improve the rail service between Edinburgh, Dunbar and Berwick upon Tweed.

To have East Linton and Reston stations re-opened for active use.

To improve the level of service to North Berwick.

To re-open the branch line from Longniddry to Haddington.

To consider the implications with regard to car parking and bicycle storage at stations between Waverley and Berwick upon Tweed.

To keep under scrutiny the standards of passenger facilities at stations between Waverley and Berwick, including North Berwick, and to draw the attention of the relevant bodies to shortcomings which arise.

The group, being environmentally minded, will actively strive to encourage rail travel within its geographical area.

 

Story Behind our Campaign for the Local Rail Service

RAGES has long been pressing for the re-introduction of the local service from Edinburgh to Berwick with the possible re-opening of stations at East Linton and Reston.

This page is general information about our campaign to date.  More specific information about the stations on the route of the local service can be seen at the link "Story for the Local Service Stations" to the left.

The latest news on our campaign can be found at the link "Latest Campaign News" also to the left.

In 1999 a study into East Lothian Rail was undertaken by the Council and is reported in  The Rages Rag Issue 5.  One of the study objectives was to carry out “A full assessment of the re-instatement of local services to Dunbar”. This was one of a number of options assessed and tested by the consultants, but was not considered viable to take forward at that time. In a table of “Suggested Rail Strategy”, it stated that the proposed East Linton site should be protected within local plans and the option to be reviewed during the medium and long term timescales.

In 2002, RAGES gathered over 1912 signatures for a petition to re-open Reston station. This was presented to the Petitions Committee at the Scottish Executive. Their recommendation after consultation with all the relevant agencies was that we should work with the above councils to produce a business case.

A study was undertaken in 2003 and published in May 2004 as seen in The Rages Rag Issue 22 and The Rages Rag Issue 24.

A Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance 1 (STAG 1) was undertaken and released in October 2005. It identified various points as worthy of further examination at the more detailed STAG 2 analysis stage. RAGES met the Minister for Transport on 13 March 2008 as reported in The Rages Rag Issue 37 which culminated in a visit by him to East Lothian and the Scottish Borders on 5 August 2008.

Full details of the visit can be found in The Rages Rag Issue 39.

Transport Scotland commissioned MVA Consultancy to undertake a study the objective of which will be to provide a complete, operationally robust, demand driven and economically sustainable train service proposal for the Edinburgh to Newcastle route having considered and appraised all of the stakeholder desires. It looked at possible new stations at East Linton and Reston. This information will be used to inform the specification for the ScotRail franchise renewal in 2014.

The study was published in September 2011 and full details can be seen in The Rages Rag Issue 51. Since the study was published, RAGES were fortunate to have a meeting with the Minister for Transport, Keith Brown, MSP, in November 2011. This had mixed results, but he has promised to visit East Linton and Reston to see for himself the areas that would be served. His main concern is that a subsidy of up to 2.5m would be required, but those present at the meeting noted that they were sceptical about the annual figures for East Linton and Reston suggested in the study. The report on the meeting can be seen in The Rages Rag Issue 52.

Since then the Minister visited East Linton, Reston and Eyemouth on 28 February 2012 where he was impressed by what he saw. A full report is in The Rages Rag Issue 53.

A brief to highlight points in the local study report to be revisited was prepared by SEStran after discussion at the local rail meeting and was submitted to Transport Scotland for their comment before onward transmission to MVA Consultancy.

The final brief was tabled at the July 2012 local rail meeting.  Scottish Borders Council and East Lothian Councils have made available their share of the cost of the study and MVA Consultancy have started on the study.  More can be seen in The Rages Rag Issue 54.

In September 2012, MVA Consultancy attended meetings at Dunpender and Reston and Auchencrow Community Councils to hear first-hand why the local communities needed a rail station.  A report can be seen in The Rages Rag Issue 55.

In December 2013, the study was published and recommended that the local service with the re-opened stations should be taken forward to the next stage. It had already been reported that the service is included as a priced option in the recently published Invitation to Tender document for the next ScotRail franchise due to start in April 2015.

In a covering letter from the three study commissioners to Keith Brown, Minister for Transport, they "hope there will be an opportunity to meet in due course to discuss the provision of a service to Dunbar and Berwick-upon-Tweed together with the two new stations during the next ScotRail franchise."

A more detailed look at the study can be seen in issue 60 of our newsletter.

The full study can be seen at this link.

Following this Scottish Borders and East Lothian councils submitted a bid to the Government's Station Investment Fund for funding for the "new" stations.  In addition the two councils dedicated funding for the two stations at Reston and East Linton.

The contribution from East Lothian Council is 1,560,000 and the contribution from Scottish Borders Council is 1,280,000. 

This provided approximately 40% of the estimated project costs.  Both Councils recognise that competition for resources from the Scottish Stations Fund is likely to be intense.  A 40% contribution is very significant, particularly as resources in both organisations are severely constrained both by the availability of finance and by a range of other important infrastructure projects.  Despite these constraints both Councils, however, place a very high priority on this project and it should be noted that there is a willingness to enter into further discussions on funding if necessary to understand what would be required to secure the investment in both stations.

In November 2014, the Minister gave his approval for the local service.

In a letter to our chairman, Keith Brown MSP, Minster for Transport, says that he has "agreed in the ScotRail franchise contract to provide a two-hourly service between Edinburgh and Berwick-upon Tweed that will call at Reston and East Linton, recognising the potential benefits that these stations could bring."

The following press release was issued on 19 November 2014 by Transport Scotland.

"New train stations for East Linton and Reston are a step closer after services for the stops were written into the next ScotRail franchise.
A two-hourly service between Edinburgh and Berwick with timing for stops at East Linton and Reston is part of the new planned timetable, which could see trains running through both stations as soon as December 2016."

Transport Minister Keith Brown revealed the latest development following the announcement of Abellio as the new ScotRail operator.
Mr Brown said: "This is a huge step forward towards the realisation of these services and shows a real commitment from the Scottish Government and ScotRail.
"Scotland's railways are a driver for economic regeneration and can bring jobs, investment and new study and social opportunities for communities.
"Our Scottish Stations Fund is now awaiting further details from the South East Scotland Regional Transport Partnership (SEStran) and East Lothian and Scottish Borders Councils for the funding application which will bring the new stations at East Linton and Reston to life."

RAGES Chairman Tom Thorburn also welcomed the news. He said: "This is terrific news for our area and will be of huge benefit to a whole range of people and businesses, namely those wishing to access jobs in Edinburgh, students being able to commute for their tertiary education at QMU, Edinburgh etc., the ability to take in the theatre and sporting fixtures, and tourist access to our areas from other parts of the country.
"It must be noted that we could not have achieved this great win for our area without the help and support of our members, MSPs, Councillors, SEStran and East Lothian and Scottish Borders Councils.

"The RAGES Committee are extremely grateful to Transport Minister Keith Brown and Transport Scotland for agreeing to this new local rail service, with re-opened stations at Reston and East Linton a major step closer."

RAGES invited Abellio to discuss the new franchise with regard to our area which started on 1st April 2015. Abellio representatives attended a meeting of the committee on 11 March 2015.

The full report on the meeting can be found in The Rages Rag Issue 64.

However, the main concern during the meeting was when it was announced that the local service could not start until the December 2018 timetable, due to lack of stock.

Following this "delay" announcement in the possible start of the local service, meetings took place in 2015 with Transport Scotland and the Minister for Transport.  These are reported in The Rages Rag Issue 65.

In July 2015 RAGES met Network Rail and ScotRail to discuss the local service project and is reported in The Rages Rag Issue 65.

A meeting with the previous Minister of Transport had taken place in March 2016 when the RAGES chairman, MSPs and representatives from the two Councils and SEStran were present.

Network Rail had announced the costings of the two stations at East Linton and Reston to be around 22m. This was a staggering increase over the 7m originally suggested at the time of the publication of the study. An increase was not unexpected as Network Rail had already indicated several technical issues with the railway infrastructure.

After that meeting the attendees came away with the knowledge that there was a significant gap between the Councils' combined budget of 3.5m plus the same amount, i.e. 50%, from Government's Station Investment Fund and Network Rail's current costs. The Minister at that time was unwilling to allocate more funds to the project.

Despite this funding gap, the two councils still wished to see the two stations re-open along with the local service.

On 14th June 2016 the promised meeting with the new Minister for Transport, Humza Yusaf MSP, took place when our chairman and vice chairman attended along with MSPs Iain Gray and John Lamont and representatives from SESTran, East Lothian and Scottish Borders Council.

The Minister made the announcement that the Scottish Government was now able to commit to 50% funding of the latest construction costs of the two stations. It is assumed that this means 11. Along with the already committed funding of 3m from the two councils, this still leaves a gap of 8m.

In early August 2016 East Lothian and Scottish Borders Councils and SEStran wrote to the Minister for Transport, Humza Yousaf, providing an alternative offer for his consideration and further discussion.

They suggested that the Scottish Government should take responsibility for the construction of the stations, including the risk (optimism bias) element of Network Rail's costings.

To that end, the councils raised their respective contributions of 3.44m for East Linton and 2.84m for Reston to cover the total construction costs less the Government's offer of 50% and the risk elements.

Later that month, both councils agreed to these additional fundings.

The RAGES Committee were delighted with Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf’s announcement in November 2016 of increased funding for East Linton and Reston Stations. This now leaves these two stations with a shortfall in construction cost funding of 1.24m and 1.18m respectively.

The Scottish Government has offered increased funding to enable construction of the proposed Reston and East Linton stations to move forward.

The offer made will increase the proposed Scottish Government contribution to 60%; this is unprecedented in terms of the Scottish Stations Fund and has never been made in any previous station.

The second option would see the stations’ construction form part of a programme of works within the next Network Rail delivery period, which broadly aims to improve capacity to the east of Edinburgh. In this second option, the councils are not being required to increase the level of funding above that which they have stated is their limit.

At the time, Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport and the Islands said:

“The Scottish Government has been a strong supporter of the delivery of Reston and East Linton stations and is keen to work with local authorities to deliver rail infrastructure to meet the needs of their local communities.

This is covered in more detail in The Rages Rag issue 67.

After due consideration, the councils agreed to accept option 2 which would see the stations’ construction form part of a programme of works within the next Network Rail delivery period (CP6 from April 2019 to April 2024).

On 8th February 2017, RAGES Committee members, Tom Thorburn and Barrie Forrest, met Humza Yousaf MSP and Transport Scotland representatives, Rose Tweedale and Gordon McLeod. They were accompanied by Councillor Michael Veitch and Jim Lamond of East Lothian Council and Graeme Johnston of Scottish Borders Council.

Tom Thorburn noted that the two stations are now being delayed to some date between 2019 and 2021, which is up to five years later than Keith Brown MSP’s letter of October 2014. How can the good people of these community's faith in this house and Buchanan House be restored?

RAGES appealed to the Minister to give assurance that the station construction will commence in January 2019 and that due process would be carried out with the ORR to ensure that paths for an hourly service would be available and protected as we were extremely disappointed that we were now not going to see the stations built until some point in CP6, but accepted that we were where we were given the contracting budgets.

Tom Thorburn asked the Minister to give a date some time in 2020 for the stations to open but he would not commit to a definitive date but promised he would look into this.

More on this can be read in The Rages Rag issue 68.

In response to Tom Thorburn's questions at the meeting on 8th February 2017 with Humza Yousaf, Minister for Transport, wrote to Tom. The main points are below and the full text was published in The Rages Rag issue 68.

In noting RAGES request for more services through Dunbar station, the Minister replied that the advantage of the funding option chosen by the councils is that it addresses the capacity constraints on the route with an opportunity to assess the capacity and infrastructural implications of additional East Coast services, the new TransPennine Express services (Newcastle-Edinburgh), the First Group's Open Access service (Edinburgh-London) and how these services might interact with a ScotRail calling pattern at Reston Station on flows between Edinburgh and Berwick upon Tweed.

The Minister confirmed that he had authorised the construction of a second platform at Dunbar Station which will allow stopping services to be routed more quickly through the area.  Network Rail is also working with East Lothian Council who have an aspiration to extend the existing car park to the front of the station on Network Rail land.

He noted that cross border passenger services are operated under franchises that are specified and awarded by the UK Government (with the exception of the Caledonian Sleeper service) and that Scottish Ministers are entitled to offer advice on the specification of these services to the Secretary of State for Transport as they relate to Scotland, however, they do not have any contractual or financial agreement with any Train Operating Company operating under a Department for Transport franchise.

The next meeting was held on 22 June 2017, chaired by Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf, and attended by RAGES, Network Rail and Transport Scotland.  All present were very disappointed to be told that a new study was to be made into the railways fitness for purpose, to report in 2020.  A letter was subsequently sent by the Minister on 21 July regarding this, to which RAGES replied.

Points from his letter the Minister, which can be seen in full in The Rages Rag issue 69, include: "I am happy to reiterate not only my personal commitment to this project but also the wider Government aspiration to improve rail connectivity for local communities."

"I have now written to Network Rail confirming the government’s commitment to delivery of Reston and East Linton stations in CP6 (2019 – 2024) and have requested detail of the planned interface between the stations and the wider plans they have relating to East Coast Main Line (ECML) capacity enhancement. "

"... I share your desire to have these stations completed in early CP6 and I can reaffirm our commitment to delivery of Reston and East Linton stations in CP6."

In his reply our chairman, Tom Thorburn, noted RAGES consternation about "... yet another study to be performed on East Coast Main Line (ECML) Capacity Enhancement which would conclude sometime in 2020."

He further said: "Your letter gives little assurance that our stations at East Linton and Reston will be delivered in the early part of CP6 – ideally 2019 to 2020. The only slight glimmer of hope that we can grasp on to is contained in paragraph 4 which reads – “I share your desire to have these stations completed in early CP6”."

Tom's letter can be seen in full in The Rages Rag issue 69.

As an action from the RAGES AGM held in September 2017, our members were encouraged to send an e-mail or letter to the Minister expressing their dismay at the continuing delay in re-opening the two stations.

In mid-October there was an announcement where the Minister claimed "... that the rail fund allocation from the UK Treasury leaves a 600m gap and said: "This 600m shortfall will do serious damage to Scotland's railways and our future enhancement projects."

Members were again asked to contact the Minister urging him not to delay the re-opening of our stations given the relatively small funding that is required.

Those who did got a reply:

"Any funding shortfall may impact a wide range of plans for the rising demand for Scotland’s railways.  To date, Transport Scotland have not yet published the statement of funds available (SoFA) for the rail network for 2019-2024.  We are continuing our constructive engagement with HM Treasury on principals and overall funding available in order to allow us to resolve the matter of the shortfall.

"In the meantime, we will continue to work with the rail industry to plan for the next rail investment period and the commitment to progress Reston and East Linton stations as early as practicable in Control Period 6 (2019-2024)."

RAGES met Alex Hynes, Managing Director, ScotRail Alliance and Jonathan Pugh, Strategy and Planning Director (Scotland) at 50 Waterloo Street, Glasgow on 21st November 2017 when they welcomed the news that the Line Capacity Study had just started and would conclude sometime around April/May 2018 and not in 2020 as had been reported earlier.  This will look at not just our service requirements for a viable all day service timetable, but that of all other users of the East Coast Main Line including freight.  The report of the meeting is in The RAGES Rag Issue 70.