Reston is Britain’s luckiest village

Tuesday 24th May 2022

TPE staff with an original station sign

There will undoubtedly be early morning shenanigans today with thousands out celebrating London’s new railway opening its central core gate lines for the first time, but today I’m bringing you news of a comparatively minor development – yesterday’s opening of another railway station closed back in 1964 in the Beeching era.

It’s in the village of Reston on the East Coast Main Line between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Dunbar, and yes you read that right, it’s serving a village…. with a population of 450.

You’ve got to hand it to Reston residents, they’ve obviously done something right in a past life, as not only have they got a shiny new railway station on one of the country’s prime railway tracks complete with two platforms long enough to accommodate ten-coach trains (yes, even LNER trains stop there) together with a very fancy accessible footbridge between them, but from the beginning of this month they also fell within the area covered by a brand new Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) bus service called Pingo enabling passengers to use their own personally summoned bus from the surrounding Berwickshire countryside to and from the station as well as other communities, villages and towns. And even better for those 22 and under or 60 and over … it’s free.

I just hope the 4,500 residents of Swallowfield and Riseley in Berkshire don’t get to hear of Reston’s good fortune faced with their limited bus service under threat of withdrawal in the coming months as explained in a recent blog.

I took the opportunity yesterday to call in at Reston station and check out its new facilities as well as give Pingo a try out.

Work started on building the new station in March 2020 and construction involved a weekend closure of the East Coast Main Line to install the footbridge.

And what a footbridge. It’s not your usual boring modular design but sports a couple of rather fancy tall towers housing the lifts and a smart glass top to the over-bridge panels facilitating a good view of the tracks below.

However, i doubt the rest of the station will be wining any prizes for architectural merit, it being to Network Rail/ScotRail’s bog standard design for such installations as we’ve seen in other recent Scottish station openings at Robroyston and Kintore.

There’s no ticket office and just the one ticket machine which sadly was out of service on its first day ….

….. and each platform boasts two basic shelters ….

…. as well as the usual blocks of four metal seats and LED departure display screens …

…. a double deck cycle rack alongside a large blue cabinet, lots of lighting columns …

….. and that’s about it. You don’t get a lot for £20 million these days.

There is a 70 space car park with the usual charging points and priority blue badge bays….

… and there are two, albeit limited in frequency, scheduled bus routes that now call at the station including Borders Bus two hourly (4/5 off peak journeys a day) route 253 …

…. and Travelsure’s four journeys a day route 34 (Tweedmouth to Duns) …

…. but I’m sure the car park will be handy for people living in the new station’s hinterland, not least the 3,600 people living in Eyemouth on the coast, six miles to the north east of Reston, which is the largest nearby community – albeit small by rail station catchment areas. I can’t help thinking the business case must have had some heroic assumptions on people living in this part of Berwickshire switching back to rail.

It’s fascinating to check back through the timeline on projects such as this which shows back in 2011, MVC Consultants, who’d been commissioned to look into the business case, assessed the new station could be built for £2.53 million and the cost of operating a “local train between Berwick and Edinburgh would be £3.2 million” per annum. Hmph, 11 years later and those figures look somewhat optimistic particular the former which has grown almost ten times. That report for Transport Scotland was quoted by one of the advocates of building the station Berwickshire MSP John Lamont “the report concludes that the costs of this new service would greatly outweigh the benefits”.

As we now know the sums were reworked and the benefits reassessed not least “the social and economic opportunities for people in Reston and the surrounding communities”. An excited community council chairman Barrie Forrest, a long time campaigner for the new station, told local media back in March last year about the impact even as construction work was still progressing “there are two or three houses up for sale and one or two of them have been sold within minutes. People are coming into the village shop and asking when they’ll be able to get a train … everybody’s delighted it’s going to happen and it can’t happen quick enough”.

Sadly the train service for those excited local residents isn’t quite the one envisaged a decade ago when the campaigning was in full swing.

Although it’s a ScotRail run station the main service is provided by TransPennine Express (TPE) which is stopping its recently introduced Edinburgh to Newcastle shuttle trains at Reston six times a day; with LNER also stopping one train in each direction – at 07:27 towards Edinburgh (a Newcastle starter) and 21:41 to York (arriving there at the rather unsocial time of 00:16).

TPE departures from Reston to Edinburgh are at 08:11, 10:22, 13:13, 14:16, 16:27 and 17:20 and to Newcastle at 06:17, 10:11, 12:14, 14:48, 15:53, 18:13 and 19:50 with the 15:53 only as far as Berwick-upon-Tweed.

It’s all very odd to have a ScotRail station with TPE departures which don’t cross the Pennines, but that’s train branding for you.

I’m sure the lucky residents of Reston, Eyemouth and surrounding villages are delighted at their new rail service with others in East Linton, 25 miles further on towards Edinburgh, west of Dunbar, eagerly awaiting their own station now under construction. There were certainly enough people taking an interest yesterday morning.

After I’d taken a look around having arrived on the 10:11 arrival from Edinburgh (to Newcastle) instead of continuing south on the next departure at 12:14 it seemed a great idea to summon up a Pingo bus for a ride down to Bewick-upon-Tweed station and catch an earlier train departure from there – seamless travel and all that – not least as I spotted a poster for Pingo ….

…. even if the standard Onward Travel poster failed to mention it.

And that map of the ScotRail network confusingly shows trains from Reston with connections to the rest of Scotland, but nothing to England. That’s border control for you.

Pingo is operated by Borders Bus on behalf of Scottish Borders Council. It began earlier this month and as shown on the map further above covers a large rural area of what we colloquially call Berwickshire. It’s got the usual App booking system with algorithms sorting out bus routings and pick ups as explained in many previous blogs.

The Mercedes buses used have the usual interior set up….

…. and ticket machine arrangement as no payments are taken on the App.

And as also explained in many previous blogs I always now book my rides well in advance to ensure I get ‘ahead of the crowd’ and stand some chance of getting a ride when I want it (‘Demand Responsive’ and all that) and I’ve also now taken to using the phone number to book rather than use the App as it’s so much easier than faffing around with the App map when you live outside the area and have to manipulate the map with on screen finger spreading.

When I rang the number to book, answered by Borders Bus very quickly, earlier in the month I was told you can only book seven days ahead, so last Monday I gave it another try only to find an answerphone with no-one available to take my call – you definitely need to allow for this type of thing when booking your bus – so I left a message and an hour and a half later, while enjoying lunch on Southend-on-Sea Pier last Monday, the lovely Emma rang me back and we sorted out my booking.

I have to say Emma really was a delight, explaining everything I needed to know including what connecting bus I’d need to take me on from Berwick-upon-Tweed’s Morrisons (on the northern edge of town) to the railway station as it turns out Pingo isn’t allowed to take passengers right into Berwick-upon-Tweed itself which is a bit bizarre as the frequency of the 253 bus route, as explained isn’t exactly, well, frequent.

As mentioned earlier, being in Scotland young people benefit from free travel on Pingo right up to age 22, as well as those aged 60 and above and for those aged 23 to 59 inclusive it costs £2 plus 20p a mile which is an interesting charging arrangement. Pingo operates with two buses seven days of the week between 07:00 and 21:00 and both buses are equipped to take two bicycles on a rear mounted frame. There’s a third bus to press into service as needed.

I booked my Pingo journey for 10:45 and as my train pulled into a platform bursting with bagpipe playing pipers, TPE flag waving high-viz vest wearing excited school children, virtually all of Reston’s residents, suit wearing, lanyard dangling, name badge showing officials (ScotRail, Network Rail, TPE … the lot) and lots of media type folk…

… I spotted a Borders Bus Pingo branded minibus languishing on the bus stop by the rather full car park (it’s always fascinating to see how many dignitaries and officials arrive at these things by car).

That’s good, I thought. It’s arrived in plenty of time and after a quick wander around all the station’s facilities, admiring the lift towers, and listening to the statutory open day piper ….

…. it was time to wander over to the minibus.

Except Michael, its driver, explained he was only there as part of the station opening to give Pingo a presence and was logged off until 11:00. We concluded the second bus would likely arrive and be my conveyance.

As 10:45 approached I noticed the previously displaying reassuring message about my booked ride had disappeared from the App and replaced with a less reassuring message advising I had no scheduled rides.

Michael suggested giving Emma a ring but unfortunately it was on answerphone again but she soon rang me back just as an automated call came to my phone advising my bus was five minutes away. Emma also reassured me all was well and the bus would soon arrive. We agreed it might be better to receive the updated automated phone message before the deleted confirmation on the App. Ideally the App should show the location of the bus as it approached, as most do.

Anyway Eilidh soon arrived and after the usual pleasantries, a photo opportunity and a quick chat with Michael we were off to Berwick’s edge of town Morrisons.

As always Eilidh (and Michael) are great ambassadors for the service and full of pride. And as usual it was a solo ride for me and around half a dozen passengers had been carried in total over the last few hours.

It was a lovely ride down the A1 especially the section where it parallels the railway along the coast ….

…. and after about 20 minutes we arrived at Morrisons.

Google told me it was a 20 minute walk to the station but I decided to do the seamless bus interchange thing and wait for the half hourly Borders Bus local B1 route.

It was a bad call. It arrived five minutes late, a troublesome ticket machine not accepting concessionary passes cost another five minutes and a good number of passengers boarding at every stop meant a tortuously slow journey as we headed into town and meant I missed my connection at the station. Seamless integrated travel this wasn’t. Just as well I had no time commitments.

It wasn’t particularly helpful to find a blank case in the shelter at Morrisons …

… nor May 2020 outdated Covid information on the bus stop pole.

The QR code didn’t work either.

The whole concessionary pass situation in border territory is also far from satisfactory. Had I made my journey from Berwick-upon-Tweed’s Morrisons (in Northumberland) to Reston my pass would have been valid but as I travelled southbound it cost me £4. Had I had a Scottish concessionary pass it would have been valid both ways according to Eilidh which is somewhat anomalous.

Perhaps I should relocate and join the lucky residents of Reston.

With TPE’s compliments

Roger French

Blogging timetable: 06:00 TThSSu

26 thoughts on “Reston is Britain’s luckiest village

Add yours

  1. It is difficult to see how that station will ever pay its way. I would have though building just a halt would be adequate for the likely passenger numbers

    A lot of rail traffic is commuters and the service from that station is going to be of very limited use for them. If the station was not viable in the 1960’s it seems highly unlikely it will be now

    It will be interesting to see what the passenger numbers are when the next figures are published

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The situation with the validity of ENCT passes on the Pingo lies with Northumberland Council. Historically, ENCT passes have been valid in both directions on cross Border routes 60 and 67 between Berwick upon Tweed and Galashiels and on Berwickshire coast routes between Berwick upon Tweed and Eyemouth subject to one end of the holder’s journey being in England.

    Scottish concessionary passes are valid on all cross Border routes to/from Berwick upon Tweed and Carlisle. They are also accepted on Peter Hogg 131 between Jedburgh and Newcastle upon Tyne.

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    1. In terms of the NEC scheme rules (as opposed to what may be happening on the ground), I don’t believe the NEC is valid on the 131 to Newcastle. If you look at the Transport Scotland website – https://www.transport.gov.scot/concessionary-travel/60plus-or-disabled/ – you will find the following statement. In relation to “Where can I travel? – Almost everywhere in Scotland and as far as Carlisle and Berwick-upon-Tweed” (i.e. no specific referencing of Newcastle).

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      1. I have used the Peter Hogg service from Newcastle to Jedburgh and I saw passengers using Scottish bus passes get on at Haymarket Bus Station and presumably stay on to Scotland as I got off at Bryness obviously I didn’t see what happened north of that .

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  3. Lockerbie is the other Scotrail station not actually served by Scotrail.I have a nasty feeling, despite the bus service and cycle racks,Reston is ment for the park n ride set who will commute to Edinburgh and this will lead to car owner Barratt boxing in a relatively untouched part of Scotland.Also Reston might only have a population of 450 now but Sir Lawrie Barrett will have his eyes on it now but don’t worry our countryside loving Royals made him a Sir….must get my flags out for the platinum jubilee!

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    1. As at 1100 24 May, Reston still not recognised by National Rail Enquiries app, though train times do come up on TPE website

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    2. Of course Reston is meant for the Park & Ride set; given the rural nature of the area it would be unrealistic to expect otherwise. In another era it would have been called Eyemouth Parkway.

      Even if every Edinburgh-bound commuter within 30 miles starting using the station, it still still wouldn’t ever pay its way though nor would it make a dent in Edinburgh’s traffic levels.

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  4. Very puzzlingly, you can buy tickets to it on the TPE, LNER and even Transport for Wales sites, but not Great Western. I thought they all used the same database?

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  5. I was surprised the Pingo took you to the northern edge of Berwick as the DRT service isn’t supposed to mirror an existing “normal” bus service, in this case the Borders Buses 253. I wonder if any of the locals have cottoned onto the fact you can make journeys already covered by the fixed bus network?

    As for the poor or lack of bus stop publicity. I’d be looking at how the “combined authority” approach has impacted the production and display of timetable information. Northumberland County Council used to create it’s own bus stop displays. Now I see they’re produced by NEXUS, the transport body answerable to the North East Combined Authority (which doesn’t include Newcastle upon Tyne, North Tyneside or Northumberland – they’re parts of the North of Tyne Combined Authority with an elected “metro mayor”). Confused? So are the local electorate.
    It would seem NEXUS is the repository of the former county public transport function. When I worked for the county council some 17 years ago the public transport team had five staff; transport policy (which I was attached to) had eleven staff, albeit nine of us were part time and based largely in the district council areas working in Rural Transport Partnership roles and not averse to locally creating bespoke bus stop cards to suit the location.

    I wonder how many transport staff are still on the county’s payroll, if any?

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    1. Nexus is responsible to the North East Joint Transport Committee, made up of representatives of the two combined authorities and the two county councils. Certain functions are delegated back to the constituent bodies. It is NEJTC which has won the BSIP funding.

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      1. A fact made easily accessible and understandable to the local electorate? As a Newcastle resident even I struggle to understand how our local (or should that be regional) public transport bodies function nowadays. Whatever next, the return of Tyne and Wear County or the creation of TfNE – Transport for the North East, although I do seem to have seen the latter title used somewhere.

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  6. Absolute nonsense when you consider the large towns in England, on existing lines, that can’t get a station. Oh yes let’s stop fast inter city long distance trains in the middle of nowhere.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Unless there’s been a seismic shift in Staffordshire’s geography, I think that Stoke on Trent (3 miles away) is slightly closer than Burton?

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    1. It is odd that large amounts are spent on these stations when there are limited services at existing stations. This is compounded when paths are given to an open access operator that focusses on the stations that already have good frequencies.

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  7. Two points of note:

    The onward travel information poster shows the nearest bus stop as Main Street, suggesting that it was prepared before the new stop at the station was listed on the data!

    Why on earth do they need a double-decker cycle rack amidst that expanse of tarmac? Just the same amount of Sheffield stands under cover would be much better, and less complicated to use.

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  8. I’m interested in the design of the bridge with matching lift shafts.
    This would be the solution to the disabled passenger problem at both Needham Market and Stowmarket stations
    If you consider how many more people use these two stations compared to Reston then there should be no reason why these type bridges shouldn’t be provided at the two sites

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  9. As the founding Chairman of Rail Action Group, East of Scotland (RAGES) and Chairman for some 22 years when I stood down in 2019, I would like to thank for this very compressive article. However I am disappointed in the title you have chosen to use ‘Reston is Britain’s luckiest village’ along other negativity in the report. Reston Station is there to serve Eastern Berwickshire which has a population in excess of 14k, and I can say this with total confidence as it was Scottish Borders Council Planning Department who drew up the map and population count to enable ourselves to take it to one of our many appointments with the Scottish Transport Minister. Criticism is levelled at Network Rail for their design of the Station and its costings. In answer to this I would say that us Borderers are well used to being left out in the cold so to speak and the car park is all built upon two large sumps which are designed to cope with the once in a hundred year flood whereby the flood water will be released on a minimal outflow such that it does not overwhelm the existing stream. In addition the access road water is all directed into a huge French drain. The Pingo bus service has only been running a number of weeks and like everything else, it requires time to bed in. Now moving to services at Reston, there are 8 services in each direction. The first northbound service is LNER’s Newcastle to Edinburgh service and thereafter TPE provides 7 services which 5 of them are Newcastle – Edinburgh and two are Berwick Edinburgh services. Southbound services are similar apart from it is LNER who provide the last service with their Aberdeen to Edinburgh service, where all other seven services are provided by TPE. Regarding the ticket machine fault, well it isn’t really a fault other than Mastercard’s fault a they have in their wisdom/lack of focus programmed the machine – Network Rail informed them some 4 to 5 weeks previous to the opening that the line was in to the machine and it was over to them.
    Finally to all the disbelievers, why shouldn’t Reston be successful? After much fighting to have Stow included in the number of stations on the Borders Railway that only had a BCR of 0.5, it has done marvellously exceeding all expectations. Reston’s BCR was 1.34 so there is total confidence that it will likewise do well. So to the doubters and moaners, if you want a station you have to work hard and professionally as RAGES did and will continue to do in bringing about better Rail Services and transport integration.
    Tom Thorburn
    Hon President
    RAGES
    rages.org.uk

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  10. One thing I find strange is that not all trains that stop at Reston call at Dunbar. Is this a TOC issue or to do with train pathing? Not only is it puzzling for passengers but it deprives them of some travel opportunities.

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  11. That Reston BR totem they are holding is not original- it’s a replica, as the type is not Gill Sans as was used on all Scottish enamel totems.

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  12. Roger wonders why so many people visit new rail stations by car. Perhaps my experience will explain.
    On Saturday I made my trip to Reston on the 0933 from Edinburgh. My admittedly optimistic plan A was for this to arrive on time at 1011 giving 6 minutes for photos before the 1017 back.
    Unfortunately a track problem meant single line working between Oxwellmains and Cockburnspath so arrival at Reston was a few minutes late. Academic though as the 1017 was cancelled. So too were the following departures in both directions, indeed I believe the next departure was the 1614 Newcastle- Edinburgh at about 1720.
    It was somewhat strange being the only person at a relatively large station and I was quite glad when an elderly couple and their grandson arrived to look round.
    Fortunately I had a plan B which was the 253 bus to Dunbar so I didn’t have to spend 7 hours in Reston. This was just over 10 minutes late but an interesting ride including some surprisingly narrow roads I hadn’t been on before.
    No doubt for the Transport Minister it was job done when she’d cut the ribbon but perhaps checking that at least initially advertised services were going to run would have been a good idea.

    Liked by 2 people

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