THE number of passengers using East Lothian’s rail services increased by more than 130,000 in 2016.
Each of the county’s seven railway stations showed a spike in footfall over the past 12 months compared to 2015.
The figures, released by East Lothian Community Rail Partnership, show an increase of 131,606 passengers in 2016, taking the total number of passengers on the county’s railway line to 2,446,664.
The figures come at a time when there are much-publicised overcrowding problems on peak-time travel on the North Berwick line, particularly around Wallyford and Musselburgh, heading into Edinburgh.
Harry Barker, partnership chairman, told the Courier: “Despite strikes in the summer which will have reduced the potential rise in passenger numbers and a critical press over the year concerning overcrowding and other service-related matters, East Lothian’s train services continue to be very well used indeed, and the rise in passenger numbers justifies the substantial investment being made to use six-car trains on the route.
“Parking issues are beginning to be addressed at Longniddry and Drem and it is hoped that toilets close to North Berwick station can be introduced in the current year, subject to planning being granted.
“The provision of later evening trains is in hand and plans for major investment at Dunbar station were unveiled to the Community Rail Partnership by Network Rail in November.”
Figures show the biggest percentage increase in passenger usage in East Lothian came at Drem, with a further 33 per cent using the station compared to 2015 – taking the number of passengers to 164,154.
Meanwhile, passenger numbers have risen by more than six per cent at Dunbar, five per cent at Wallyford and more than 4.5 per cent at Musselburgh.
North Berwick has also shown a rise of 3.91 per cent, with a one per cent rise at both Longniddry and Prestonpans.
Figures also released by ScotRail show that the new Borders line carried 1,231,224 passengers in the corresponding most recent period, around half of the East Lothian total at roughly double the frequency, with earlier and later trains compared to the East Lothian service.
Councillor Michael Veitch, the local authority’s spokesman for roads and transport, felt it was an indication there was a desire from East Lothian’s population to travel by rail, despite the much-publicised problems.
He said: “It is no great surprise. There are enormous numbers of people now using the various stations, particularly because of the new housing in various towns and villages.
“There is an ever-increasing demand to travel into Edinburgh.”
Mr Veitch felt the numbers also highlighted there was a need for investment on the lines “sooner rather than later”.