Rail Infrastructure in South Scotland (Expansion)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 17th November 2022.

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Photo of Craig Hoy Craig Hoy Conservative

6. To ask the Scottish Government what plans it has to expand rail infrastructure in the South Scotland region. (S6O-01569)

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

Our railways help us to meet our strategic transport objectives, and the decarbonisation of rail passenger and freight transport will help us to cut transport emissions and meet our climate change targets. In addition, they support our economic and social wellbeing. As the member will know, I recently reopened Reston railway station, in Berwickshire, following a £20 million investment, and we are investing £15 million in another new railway station at East Linton, in East Lothian.

Photo of Craig Hoy Craig Hoy Conservative

I thank the minister for that answer and for coming to a recent meeting at which we discussed these issues. Does she agree with me that, to achieve net zero, it is vital to provide transport connectivity for areas such as East Lothian, which is one of the fastest growing in Scotland today? Does she welcome the calls by the Rail Action Group East of Scotland for a train connection for Haddington? Will she agree to meet representatives of RAGES, to get Haddington back on track?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

I very much agree with the sentiment of Mr Hoy’s question. We had a very positive meeting last week, and, as Mr Hoy will know, I met members of the RAGES campaign group when I reopened Reston railway station, earlier this year. I will be more than happy to meet the member and the RAGES group to talk about connectivity in relation to the specific issue at Haddington, which we discussed last week.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

The Auditor General for Scotland said that there has been a 30 per cent increase in capital costs in Scotland directly as a result of Brexit. Can the minister advise us how that will impact on extending the Borders railway line through Hawick and beyond?

Photo of Jenny Gilruth Jenny Gilruth Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government has already allocated up to £5 million through the Borderlands inclusive growth deal to assess the benefits and challenges of extending the Borders railway. That funding will be released on the achievement of agreed milestones and in line with the processes that apply to all growth deals.

Christine Grahame is right to point to the inflationary pressures that are currently hampering and challenging a number of capital projects, particularly in transport. We know that Brexit has also impacted on the availability of materials and costs, and those inflationary pressures are additional.

The Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise and I met representatives of the Borderlands partnership on 6 October to discuss how to advance the proposed work. Following that, we jointly wrote to the United Kingdom Government on 21 October, asking it to give urgent consideration to progressing the deal commitment. We now await a response from the UK Government to that urgent letter, and I will be happy to update the member and Parliament when we hear more from the UK Government on this important matter.