MSPs unite in protest at plans to cut rail services to Dunbar

MSPs from across the political spectrum have united to condemn plans to cut train services to Dunbar just 18 months after £13 million was invested in building an extra platform at the station.

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 4:55 am

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The town is set to lose 17 trains a week if proposed East Coast Mainline timetable changes go ahead as planned in May 2022.

And East Lothian SNP MSP Paul McLennan says it is all down to a drive to speed up journey times between London and Edinburgh.

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Paul McLennan at Dunbar station

He said: “I am appalled at the proposed axing of a minimum of 17 weekly services to and from Dunbar. To make such drastic changes less than two years after the opening of a new platform at the cost of £13 million from the public purse would be a disaster.

“We are in the midst of a climate emergency. Scrapping vital rail services will only increase the number of people travelling to Edinburgh from Dunbar by car. The Department of Transport should be taking all necessary steps to promote the use of low-carbon public transport and not forcing people into cars by jeopardising services put in place to improve connectivity.”

South of Scotland Labour MSP Martin Whitfield said the planned cut in train services was “an absolute outrage” and claimed it could make people decide to move away.

He said: “It threatens the viability of Dunbar because significant number of people have chosen to buy in the town because of the easy access to Edinburgh.

“Dunbar is a huge attraction for people moving out of Edinburgh because they could locate just along the railtrack and that’s where they decided to buy their family homes.

“If that easy access goes, people are going drive instead and they will think twice about whether they want to stay there or move somewhere else.”

The service reductions will also affect many other places north and south of the border, including the new station being built at East Linton, which is due to be completed by 2024 along with one at Reston in the Borders.

South of Scotland Tory MSP Craig Hoy said: “The expectation for both Dunbar and East Linton was that with an increased population in East Lothian we would be getting more not less in the way of rail connectivity, so I’m very concerned we seem to be heading in the wrong direction.

"East Linton and Reston are new stations based on the presumption there is the demand there. To say they will have reduced services and for Dunbar to lose key connectivity is not acceptable.

“I can understand the need for greater capacity on the Eat Coast mainline in terms of fast trains to London, but it cannot be at the expense of those regional services which more and more people will come to rely upon.”

Consultations on the proposed timetable changes have been launched by the train operators involved – LNER, CrossCountry and TransPennine.

And the MSPs want as many people as possible to send in their comments.

Mr Hoy said: “We don’t have a lot of time to draw attention to this. We don’t want this to go through and for passengers only to find out when they present themselves at the station and then realise there are significantly fewer trains from Dunbar.”

A spokeswoman for LNER said: “Our proposed May 2022 timetable has been developed by Network Rail with all train and freight operators on the East Coast Main Line. It has involved balancing long-distance, high-speed, regional and commuter/local services alongside the needs of the rail freight sector.”

She said the changes did involve a series of trade-offs, but included 39 more LNER services each weekday, up to 17,000 extra seats per day and reduced journey times and on long-distance services.

"Our proposed timetable is far more than cutting journey times, it is about adding new services and capacity where they are most needed, in order to ensure more seats and better value fares for our passengers.”

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