Iain Gray: Rail service to Dunbar on track

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Popular Christmas presents this year might have been hi-tech tablets and games consoles, but there will have been some traditional train sets under trees too.

For many years my constituents in Dunbar and East Linton have been asking for a real train set – a local rail service linking them to Edinburgh. It seems Santa might be listening at last.

There are trains through Dunbar to Edinburgh, but most of them are London trains and few stop. In East Linton the station closed decades ago and residents can only watch from the bus stop as trains speed through. Now the Scottish Government has asked companies bidding for the next ScotRail franchise to include the cost of a Berwick to Edinburgh service stopping at Dunbar and new stations at East Linton and Reston. At the same time a report commissioned by the South East Scotland transport partnership was published showing once and for all that such a service has a strong business case and is possible without disrupting London trains.

The argument is not quite won. The service needs a subsidy, but that is true of almost all rail services in Scotland. Moreover, other stations in East Lothian have seen passenger numbers increase and I think that would happen on this line too, reducing the predicted cost. The service to North Berwick is very popular with my constituents, and now carries many more passengers than ever predicted.

All the evidence is that commuters will leave their cars, if we provide good public transport links. That is good for the county, and good for the planet too.

This is a victory for persistent people power. Local rail campaigners RAGES have been relentless in arguing for a local service and reopened stations at East Linton and Reston. They have met more transport ministers than they will want to remember, and heard endless excuses which they have knocked down one after the other with support from East Lothian and Borders councils.

Transport Minister Keith Brown, to his credit, seems to have listened, and maybe, just maybe, East Lothian will be unwrapping a new train set for next Christmas. If we are good.

• Iain Gray is Labour MSP for East Lothian