The East Lothian Community Rail partnership was formed in 2014 and covers the Edinburgh Waverley to North Berwick and Dunbar ScotRail services. Stations served are
- Edinburgh Waverley
- North Berwick
- (Proposed station at East Linton)
The purpose of ELCRP is to support and complement ScotRail with a view to improving the overall passenger experience on the East Lothian services for which ScotRail is responsible which ultimately will result in greater rail usage. In particular local knowledge is key to promoting initiatives, in particular bus/rail connectivity and other issues.
In general terms, ELCRP believes that the rail service to both Dunbar and North Berwick is good, with modern fast trains and an acceptable level of punctuality. On the other hand there are certain strategic aspects that require to be addressed and again in broad terms these are:
- Overcrowding of certain peak hour trains into and out of Edinburgh to the extent that on occasions some passengers have to be left behind. Standing passengers are evident on a daily basis in excess of ScotRail’s own parameters. Musselburgh is particularly badly affected on inward (down) journeys.
- The termination of late running trains on the North Berwick service at Drem (anything over 10 minutes late seems to be considered for this treatment) in order that the train can return to Edinburgh on time to take up its next duty, or more likely the crew’s next duty. Only rarely is there any bus substitution, and scores of passengers can be left stranded at Drem. This is considered dangerous with a narrow platform and a 110mph speed limit through the station and seems to be an accident waiting to happen. Passengers have been known to wait for an hour if they have not been picked up by relatives or friends at Drem. It creates an appalling impression of the railway and crew considerations apart, late running trains between Drem and Edinburgh will undoubtedly delay express services that may be following making Drem terminations more attractive to ScotRail. The increase in capacity proposed should result in this practice ceasing then, if not immediately for safety reasons.
- The inability of ScotRail to take all fares and tickets on the majority of journeys resulting in substantial revenue loss, despite Revenue Protection Officers meeting peak hour trains. It is appreciated this may be outside the scope of the route consultation.
In response, ELCRP makes the following points:
- ELCRP is pleased to note the proposed plans to increase line capacity by providing an additional line between Waverley and Portobello Junction and Craigentinny. It is often the case that trains are delayed at either Portobello Junction or Craigentinny by movements into/out of Craigentinny or the Borders line. The latter may be improved if the single lead junction at Portobello Junction is replaced by a full junction during the planned improvements.
- The concept of removing intermediate stations from the main line onto loop lines is supported. In particular, that between Wallyford and Prestonpans will have a major impact on increasing line capacity, although we wonder looking to the very substantial works that will be required should Wallyford be removed from the main line, if a cheaper option is to quadruple tracks from just beyond Wallyford to Prestonpans (and then also include Drem as suggested, rather than an option or alternative only.) We also note that despite space being readily available between east of Wallyford station to Prestonpans, in the relatively recent past the main line was moved slightly south, to the west of Prestonpans due to serious mining subsidence, but no doubt this has been taken account of.
- The potential movement of stations provides an opportunity to provide full disabled access at those stations involved, plus access to station frontages by public transport and adequate cycle provision.
- We consider there is a huge opportunity to consider a new branch line from Prestonpans to Cockenzie to the south side of the current road where Cockenzie Power Station used to be situated, using part of the area where the tracks to the power station are already in situ, albeit out of use.
- Likewise, looking to the very substantial new housing scheduled for the Blindwells area, a new off main line station there might be essential if anything like the projected numbers of new residents is achieved. Alternatively, in order to avoid confrontational movements across the East Coast Mail Line (ECML) moving Prestonpans station to the loop lines situated to the east of the present station, as suggested as an option, would be an acceptable compromise and the new station could be named Prestonpans and Blindwells. We note the adjacent site of The Battle of Prestonpans which would require to be fully protected in its current position.
- We consider that movement of Drem station to the loop lines there – albeit that the down loop line is not currently accessible from the North Berwick branch – would be sensible and certainly significantly safer than at present where trains are terminated there. We understand that the down loop line is one of those scheduled (for security reasons, there being no road access) for stabling the Royal train in the very rare occasions it is in the area overnight.
- The current extension of the platform at North Berwick station to take 6 car trains is welcomed. It is also noted that as demand for commuter services will increase so that even 6 car trains will prove to be inadequate, an increase in frequency, or the running of ‘short’ journeys say from Prestonpans to Edinburgh (as is currently done with one morning train) will be cost effective to cater for the anticipated passenger numbers. It is noted with a degree of satisfaction that ‘travel opportunities per hour’ is stated at two for both North Berwick and Dunbar, and whilst on the North Berwick service this is already the case at peak travel times and on Saturdays, it is hoped, but unclear in the report, that two trains per hour will operate throughout the day (other than in the evenings and on Sundays).
- In noting that a proposed station at East Linton may be operative in the foreseeable future, it is presumed that trains serving this and Dunbar will also call at intermediate stations, and in particular Musselburgh for Queen Margaret University.
- We understand that planned works to Dunbar station to permit platform access on both up and down lines sides is well underway. We also understand that there is a possibility that trains serving Dunbar might include some Trans Pennine Express services – perhaps hourly – and which may result in a reduction of current Cross Country services serving Dunbar. No doubt both the ELCRP, RAGES and other relevant Dunbar groups will be consulted on this change in due course.
- Bearing in mind that ELCRP has recently spent £3700 in restoring the murals at Prestonpans station, these being important to local residents, the moving of the station eastwards would almost certainly result in demolition of the current buildings and replacement with a modern structure. If this is the case we make a SPECIAL PLEA for provision of the current murals to be moved to the new station.
- We are aware that car parking is at an absolute premium at all of the stations in East Lothian, and that hopefully before in some cases, and during the works proposed, that substantial additional car parking is provided sympathetically with local amenity conditions. It may be that two, or more, storey car parking, could be provided at Prestonpans (& Blindwells).
- No doubt if works are proposed at Drem to move that station off the main line, improved and adequate disabled access will be provided to the down platform which is currently inaccessible. If Drem is not to be moved, some firm proposals to make the down platform accessible will be required. There are disabled issues at Longniddry and to some extent at Wallyford.
- ELCRP also welcomes the proposed additional works at Edinburgh Waverley. In particular the addition of two more through platforms should enable some thought to be given to running East Lothian services – and in particular from North Berwick – through to Glasgow Queen Street using the same Class 385 units in 2×3 car formation. This will allow better train usage as one Class 380 unit currently stands idle for much of the time in Waverley. Indeed we believe that such a through service can be provided as part of the current EGIP programme when completed, and this may be in your plans already although we were unable to find it in the consultation document.
Harry L. Barker
Chairman, East Lothian Community Rail Partnership