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.

On 8 May 2013, the regular local rail meeting was again hosted by East Lothian Council.

Scott Leitham of MVA Consultancy had been invited to the meeting to present and discuss the latest draft of the Edinburgh - Dunbar - Berwick-upon-Tweed Study.

As the study is still in a confidential state, we can only say that the study was well received and there was plenty of discussion around the table.

It was decided that the current draft should also be sent to Transport Scotland to ensure that its content matched their expectations as they had been involved in tweaking the brief which SEStran had written prior to the study being undertaken.

Transport Scotland have raised some points which SEStran and the Councils which have now been discussed.  A re-drafting of the report is being done by the consultants and should be available for final discussion soon.

In December 2013, the study was finally 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.

Scottish Borders and East Lothian councils have submitted a bid to the Government's Station Investment Fund for funding for the "new" stations.  In addition the two councils now have 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 provides a total maximum contribution of 2,840,000 or 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 has given 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 as been 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."

Mr Brown will now meet with SEStran and the Rail Action Group, East of Scotland (RAGES) to hear how they are progressing those plans.

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. Mike Kean, UK Rail Business Development Director (Bid Director for ScotRail) and John Shannon (Lead Timetabler) 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 Mike Kean announced that the local service could not start until the December 2018 timetable, due to lack of stock. This prompted the production of the letter from Keith Brown MSP, the previous incumbent of Minister for Transport, to the RAGES Chairman, where he said "... I look forward to being able to confirm funding for the stations, and to their construction, with services operating from December 2016, that being the earliest realistic date."

According to the ScotRail Franchise - Franchise Agreement between the Scottish Ministers and Abellio ScotRail Ltd, the service would require one additional EMU diagram to accomplish the two-hourly service and that the last date for exercising the priced option on order to maintain the price detailed in that document is 1st December 2018.

Mike Kean confirmed that if Transport Scotland is so minded to finance this priced option earlier plus the funding of extra stock, Abellio would respond favourably.

Following this "delay" 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.

As Parliament was about to close for the election period, the Minister suggested another meeting should be held after the election.

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

During the election campaign, Barrie Forrest, our vice chairman, met First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, and Paul Wheelhouse MSP at Eyemouth. Barrie spoke to Ms Sturgeon and asked about her commitment to Reston station and RAGES aims. She shook Barrie's hand saying that she was fully committed to the re-opening of Reston Station.

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.

It had been suggested by the previous Minister and was re-iterated by the current Minister that the councils should 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. The councils are pursuing this and other sources of funds.

The councils are awaiting a promised letter from the Minister confirming his announcement, but discussion at the Haddington meeting suggested that it should be proactive and write to the Minister laying out what it understood to be the details of his commitment to the project.

It is thought that Transpennine Express have been asked in its bid to include stops at a re-opened Reston station. The ultimate service from Edinburgh to Berwick may be a mixture of the various train operating companies to provide a regular interval of trains serving the line.

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 have 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 have 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 will 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.

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.

“Currently, we fund new stations via the Scottish Stations Fund with central government funding limited to 50%; the balance being matched by contributions from promoters, whether local authorities or private developers.

“Recognising the budgetary pressures facing all parties concerned, I have written to both local authorities outlining my two potential solutions to the current funding shortfall.

“My first option seeks to address the shortfall by increasing the central government contribution to an unprecedented 60%, the second by incorporating the stations within a larger programme of works.

“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.

“In both instances, I would also be seeking a long term commitment from each council in respect of improved connectivity. For example, by ensuring appropriate bus services to the station from outlying communities and the provision of suitable interchange facilities to maximise the wider economic and social value of the stations.

“I am pleased to be able to offer these unprecedented solutions to allow the construction of these stations to progress. I’ve advised the councils that I’m happy to accept either option. The ball is now in the Councils’ court and I look forward, in due course, to hear how they wish to proceed.”