The publicity over the opening of London’s £19 bn Elizabeth Line (formerly Crossrail) yesterday rather overshadowed ScotRail’s newest station opening at Reston at a millionth the cost. Largely the result of stalwart campaigning by the Rail Action Group East of Scotland (RAGES), this ends the anomaly of Berwickshire having one of the country’s premier rail lines (ECML), but no stations to access trains using it.
The intention is that it becomes a hub for the area and railhead for scattering of towns and villages that includes Eyemouth, Ayton, Coldingham, Duns and Chirnside, as well as providing parking that is in short supply in Berwick.
As a modern unmanned station, it provides lifts and bridge access from the 70-stall car park and bus stop where the single ticket machine is placed and basic waiting facilities of a couple of shelters and four-seat benches on each platform. The bridge has a nice touch of glass panels that allow views of the trains below without compromising safety.
Although the station itself shows little information and no timetables, the bus stop des show one for the Borders Bus services 34 Berwick-to-Duns (2-hourly) and 253 Berwick-to-Edinburgh (hourly). There is also a local Pingo dial-up bus. As with other unmanned stations, there are no toilet facilities, nor even waste bins. The nearest shop is 300m to the East in Reston village (pop: 450)
Reston is an un usual ScotRail station in that it has no ScotRail train service, the nearest being the five-trains-a-day service to Dunbar. Even those are currently suspended during the temporary timetable in place during the driver dispute. The reason for this is that the ECML here is almost entirely dedicated to long-distance trains between Edinburgh, Berwick and further South.
These are run by LNER (London & North-Eastern Railway), TP (Transpennine Express) and XC )Cross-country). Only TP stops at Reston, with the others providing a more frequent service to Dunbar.
On the first day of operation (May 23rd), two dozen cars in the car park and a smattering of passengers on each train shows there is already interest in the service. However, only a half-dozen trains each way at erratic times is unlikely to encourage heavy use outside of commute times. The North Berwick service used to suffer from this. But the introduction of a regular hourly electric service in 1991 grew traffic to over 5m passengers each year at North Berwick alone.
With only one stop at Dunbar, the service into Edinburgh Waverley is fast at under 40 minutes for the 45 miles. Despite being run by a famously cheese-paring First Group, TP’s 6-car 802-class trains are modern, quiet and provide a trolley catering service en route. As their Newcastle-Edinburgh route is relatively new, there are plenty of empty seats and reservations are not necessary.
Tickets cost £8 – £18 single to Edinburgh—but be careful to note and follow any restrictions; TP staff can be quite snotty if you board a train for which a ticket is not valid, starting with a £20 penalty fare, plus the cost of another ticket. However, contrary to that reported in earlier “Anorak” blogs, train companies will honour tickets issued by other companies for travel within Scotland.
Nonetheless, this attempt to have airline-style booking with differing prices on particular trains is not common elsewhere in Scotland, nor on local services in general. This problem will compound when another station opens on this “no-mans-land part of the ECML at East Linton in two years’ time. Which TOC will provide a service there is not et clear.
What IS clear is the logical way to provide service to both stations is for ScotRail to get serious about serving this part of Scotland. If it can run trains through Carlisle to Newcastle, it can run a local service to Berwick. The logical answer is to grow the Waverley-North Berwick service to a “Y-shaped” route, running half-hourly to Drem and then alternate trains between North Berwick and Berwick, with the latter calling at East Linton, Dunbar and Reston on the way. This latter need not stop at all station into Edinburgh, but should at least serve Musselburgh for access to QMU.