Some of the East Lothian Community Rail Partnership committee with ScotRail speakers at our AGM in October. From L to R: John Wilson (ScotRail), Harry Barker (CRP Chair), Allison Cosgrove, Alex Hynes (MD ScotRail Alliance), Ros Houldsworth (ScotRail), and Graham Atkins.

Harry Barker, reported on the CRP’s activities this year:

“I am pleased to present my report for the year ending 31st March 2018.

With the death of our secretary, Sheila Sinclair, last year, much of the Secretarial work was undertaken by myself but I am now delighted to report that Allison Cosgrove has volunteered to become our Secretary and we all wish her well in undertaking this task. Thank you Allison for doing so!

Much of the work of the CRP during the year has concentrated on the continuance of various projects and progress of these is contained in our Action Plan which is a working document considered at every CRP meeting, and regularly reported to ScotRail.

We received funds from ScotRail of £5780.66 in respect of projects undertaken during the year, and £1894.43 is respect of administration costs, including examination of our accounts and attending The 10thScottish Annual Rail Conference at Murrayfield – which we were specially invited to attend, plus ACoRP meetings in York. The cost of this AGM is also included in the administration figure.

We produced an updated version of our highly successful Line Guide, which now has a production run of 10,000 per annum and all were distributed last year. We utilise the services of EAE in this regard and receive a monthly report on distribution figures.

Current projects in course are:

  • Production of new CRP posters for display at all stations
  • Production of historical posters for display at all stations. That relating to North Berwick has been re-instated, and others will follow as they are written, designed and printed. Access to photographs – which hopefully will include the building of the Wallyford road system over the East Coast mainline in 1960 – should not prove problematic.
  • In order to remember our late secretary, Sheila Sinclair, in conjunction with North Berwick in Bloom (station adopters), North Berwick Community Council, some personal donations, and finance from ourselves, a large flower planter, to be maintained by the station adopters, is to be formally dedicated later this year. Sheila was a keen gardener and many of her favourite flowers will be featured from time to time.
  • Meetings have been held with Scott Prentice, Head of Business Development at ScotRail, regarding the introduction of a clock-face timetable and the provision of later trains to both Dunbar and North Berwick allowing nights out in Edinburgh. The delay in the introduction of ScotRail’s new timetables due to the well-advertised windscreen problems of the new Class 385 Hitachi electric units, has meant this has not yet come to fruition and indeed we are not aware of what the changes will be. Meantime we continue to note that the new Borders line has roughly half the number of passengers, and double the frequency of East Lothian services, with better evening trains.
  • Our campaign to have toilets reinstated at North Berwick station continues. We are now more hopeful that some progress on this issue is closer than has been the case for some time.
  • We are about to commence a project that will identify shortfalls in current signage on attractions accessible from the railway stations on the line(s) – this will include the Haddington Railway Walk, Prestonpans Battlefield and the Scottish Flag Centre.
  • Our project to attempt to introduce bus/rail connectivity at North Berwick, and ultimately elsewhere, appears no longer to be possible due to Equality Act (2010) legislation which would require buses to terminate at the station in order to provide compliant passenger transfer. The police have indicated that they do not consider using the station as a bus terminus where one bus would sit for 10 minutes per hour to match when the train is in the station, to allow for an 8 minute transfer, would be safe.
  • We were involved in procuring late night trains from North Berwick during Fringe by the Sea week, and I am pleased to advise that the new Fringe by the Sea organising committee has similarly arranged late night trains this year also.
  • We have recently – but falling into the current year’s activities – been involved in a highly successful project at Musselburgh Golf course who hosted, among others, the US Kids Golf Tournament this year. This project has been entered in the Annual ACoRP awards programme and we are hopeful of recognition in October in Glasgow when ScotRail host the ACoRP awards ceremony.


Issues facing us at present


  • The CRP is wholly run by volunteers. We therefore are completely dependent on the generous giving up of time to serve the CRP. For example, I spend a minimum of five, and usually nearer ten hours a week doing various CRP tasks. This is far more than the original estimate of up to 10 hours a month. The speed at which we undertake projects is totally related to the time our volunteers are prepared to give up and we find that projects are taking much longer to come to fruition that they ought, on paper at least. We note that unlike 56 of the 57 CRPs in England and Wales who employ part time paid project and business development personnel to undertake work, this is generally not the position in Scotland – we desperately wish it was and the activities of the CRP are suffering as a result.
  • The CRP wishes to incorporate as a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) as we feel that volunteers should not have personal liability when involved with a CRP. One CRP has already gone down this road and another is attempting to do so. This is a time consuming project and until we are able to allocate volunteers to this, even using other CRPs’ experience, I am unable to say when this will be achieved. If this is to be successful, a new constitution will be required to encompass charitable objectives.
  • A large part of my time has been taken up by attempting to defend shortcomings in service provision by ScotRail, due to overcrowding, and also termination of North Berwick bound services at Drem, and even Prestonpans for a variety of reasons, but including late departure from Edinburgh due to the incoming crew being delayed on an incoming late running train, cancellation at Drem being implemented to ensure a timeous arrival back into Edinburgh ; track circuit failures at Drem ; signal failures at Drem ; points failures at Drem, all of which mean the train cannot get onto the branch line ; Network Rail not releasing the branch line to ScotRail during planned line possessions – resulting in cancelled morning commuter trains ; mechanical failure of the electric units, not common but nevertheless it does occur, and of course weather related issues. We believe taking all these factors into account that around 200 trains this calendar year have been terminated at Drem. This is in addition to total cancellations for whatever reason.
  • I try to attend as many Area Partnership meetings as possible in North Berwick and reliability is a major issue. The number of direct contacts via our website is increasing and all of these land on my desk for a response. We do not of course deal with specific complaints which we refer to ScotRail.
  • We have raised the issue of passengers having to queue at Waverley for ticket purchases when alighting often for up to 20 minutes, and more, with ScotRail, resulting in missed connections and late appointments. We have been advised by ScotRail that fully gated barriers are to be introduced at Waverley for all East Lothian trains when Waverley has been re-modelled (but not at the East Lothian stations) meaning that the use of a Smartcard will be very beneficial to passengers in the absence of a greater number of and more reliable ticket machines at the stations.
  • One increasingly mentioned factor that is emerging is that some believe that due to our being financed by ScotRail (unlike English and Welsh CRPs who are financed by the Department for Transport) there is a major conflict of interest in bringing systemic service matters to the attention of ScotRail.
  • The capacity issues that face East Lothian trains are well known – not just peak hour capacity – we recently learned of a Sunday service, formed of a three car unit, that was so overcrowded at Waverley the platform was closed for safety reasons and around 50 passengers were left stranded. This should never happen on a Sunday and had a four car unit been employed, as was the case until recently, this would not have occurred. Overcrowding does not only relate to the trains themselves, but also the ability to park at stations. With all station car parking facilities, with the exception of Wallyford, now full by the morning peak on Mondays to Fridays, it is known that intending passengers who would rather travel by train simply do not even attempt to do so but either drive into Edinburgh or use the now much enhanced bus service.
  • Passenger numbers fell in the last year after many years increasing. This is we believe directly related to reliability and capacity issues as the number of passengers using Waverley increased as other services continue to see increased patronage.
  • It is recorded elsewhere that East Coast Buses have seen a substantial increase in their number of passengers using East Lothian services to the extent of 31% in year one, contrary to a national trend of reducing bus usage. The bus operator has increased through buses from North Berwick to Edinburgh from one to three per hour (one of which is an express) and that corridor has seen an increase of 52% over the past year (within the 31% previously quoted). We believe this principally is at the expense of the railway due to capacity and reliability issues and will be resulting in major revenue loss.
  • Whilst the CRP made submissions to Network Rail’s Scotland Route Study in 2016, in particular regarding the possible four tracking between near Wallyford and Drem, there has been no public announcement of what is to happen to increase line capacity. It is important that the public appreciate that the CRP has little, if any, influence in this matter – our views have already been made known.


Proposed rail survey


It is because of the above issues that the CRP is proposing to undertake, using professionals, a major survey on rail travel during 2019, majoring on the barriers to travel. This will complement the survey done in 2014 but with a change in Train Operating Company, and different travel patterns and problems, it is necessary to re-visit the public’s perception of rail travel locally especially looking to the reducing passenger numbers. The final report will be sent to the most senior management in ScotRail and also Transport Scotland. This will identify issues to enable improvements to the rail service to be introduced. The project will require some matched funding, and if that is not received, it will not be able to proceed.


Harry Barker,

Chair, East Lothian Community Rail Partnership.

July 2018