It is not our usual practice to issue a newsletter to our interested stakeholders, but when we entered the current lockdown situation I said that I would keep in touch to let you know what we were doing and intended to do.

First of all I do hope this finds you all in good health. Please adhere to whatever restrictions are in place and let us hope that a return to a more relaxed atmosphere can be achieved soon.

Since we last met, we had been waiting for our annual financial settlement from ScotRail. This was received on 31st March – our year end – and considerably later than usual. That meant that our popular Line Guide of which 13,000 are produced and which is distributed to a large number of railway stations throughout central Scotland, and hotels and guest houses and museums, could not be put in place until confirmation that the finance had been received. This is our most expensive project and which really has to be up and running by Easter. As it happens, events overtook us, and had we proceeded, no benefit would have accrued this year at all. We are hoping that a new and fresher Line Guide will be available through a student at Queen Margaret University for introduction next year but it could well be that the current restrictions will hamper this.

The lateness of the finance also meant that I was unable to proceed with discussions with the new management of the totally refurbished Scottish Seabird Centre about advertising their discounts to the Centre if you have travelled by train to get there. In addition all of our other proposed projects are on ice at present.

Meantime our accounts are being prepared for audit. No arrangements have been made for our AGM because we just do not know what distancing or requirements for maximum numbers for groups will be and it may be that this will have to take another form.

Coronavirus projects

Following a request, ScotRail have allocated £1000 of our funding to assist with local community charities deal with the effects of the current crisis, and Allison Cosgrove has been instrumental in taking this important project forward. We researched what was being done in East Lothian, and decided to support Dunbar Crisis Fund which has been set up to help families requiring short term help, and the Pennypit Trust, which is working in Prestonpans and Tranent to provide food and other essentials.

We need a new Chair

As you know I have indicated that I propose to stand down as Chair at the AGM this year. Quite simply this is because my other voluntary commitments are heavy resulting in me not having enough time to devote to the CRP. In particular I am a main board director of Bus Users UK, representing Scotland, and until the current crisis resulted in me having to make frequent trips to London, Leeds, Cardiff and elsewhere. Bus Users are contracted by Transport Scotland to provide services to them, and likewise they have a contract with the Welsh Government and they have regular meeting with the Department for Transport in London and are the only authorised organisation to provide Alternative Dispute Resolution services in the whole of the UK. I also hold some local voluntary positions including a Church treasurer’s post, Chair of RELBUS and treasurer of the Scottish Seabird Centre Volunteer Group. I have already given up my Chair’s position of a large national transport charity which also involved regular meetings in London, Birmingham and elsewhere.

Community Rail Scotland

As it happens, there are very positive changes ahead for all CRPs in Scotland, and now is the time for someone to step forward and lead East Lothian CRP into this new arena. Until now, all of the sixty or so CRPs in the UK, nine of which are in Scotland, have had a relationship with a professional body called ACoRP (Association of Community Rail Partnerships) based in Huddersfield, but it is felt this does not fully represent the differing circumstances extant in Scotland, and whilst our relationship with ACoRP (just re-named Community Rail Network) will remain on a lesser footing, a new over-arching body will be formed in Scotland called Community Rail Scotland. ScotRail are fully supportive of this initiative and as a separate attachment is the proposed structure which involves a large number of organisations and promises to raise the profile of Community Rail in Scotland. It is important that East Lothian is part of this new initiative.

Community Rail Scotland Structure Map

If anyone wishes to become Chair and take this forward please put your head above the parapet now. You do not require a detailed knowledge of railways, but would have the advantage of being in at the beginning of this new chapter. Indeed it can often be the case that someone outside the rail community can cast a welcome fresh line of thought on the way forward.

I am most willing to provide more details and can be contacted on harrylbarker@gmail.com or by phone on 01620 892089 if you simply want a discussion. Normally this might have been over a cup of coffee, but that does not seem possible at present.

Meantime please stay safe.

Harry Barker, Chair.