THE Scottish Government has been told it cannot expect East Lothian to cope with thousands of new homes without investment in rail services.

Preston/Seton/Gosford councillor Lachlan Bruce (Con) said the gauntlet had been thrown down to the Government to fund improvements to county lines amid concerns about the future of Prestonpans Railway Station.

Fears were raised after the draft Cockenzie Masterplan was released by East Lothian Council and stated that moving the station closer to the planned new town at Blindwells, or replacing it with a new station at the new settlement, were options.

The suggestion brought an angry response, with local politicians calling for the reference to be withdrawn.

And following a meeting of Prestonpans Community Council, attended by Douglas Proudfoot, the local authority’s head of development, and Iain McFarlane, head of planning, there were calls for any talk of closure to be dismissed publicly.

Mr Bruce said he had received assurances from ScotRail that any suggestion of closing the station was not supported by them.

In a letter to Mr Bruce, Jim Craig, customer liaison manager, said: “ScotRail has no plans to close or relocate the station. It is an important connection to the rail network for the local community with more than 250,000 people travelling to and from this station each year.”

But Mr Bruce said that it was clear that improvements to rail services were needed if the county was to cope with the proposed housing boom.

Mr Bruce said: “I welcome ScotRail confirming to me they wouldn’t support closing Prestonpans Station.

“But the gauntlet has been put down to the SNP Government: they need to provide the funding to increase the number of tracks between Drem and Wallyford from two to four so that rail capacity can be increased in East Lothian.

“The SNP Government can’t expect us to build tens of thousands of new homes in East Lothian without expanding our rail capacity. Trains are already at bursting point in East Lothian and they need to do something about it.”

East Lothian Council commissioned consultants to create a masterplan for the future of the former Cockenzie Power Station site. But the local authority has distanced itself from the reference to Prestonpans Railway Station potentially being moved.

A statement by Councillor Norman Hampshire (Lab), depute council leader, said: “The council would not support the closure of the current Prestonpans Railway Station. We are unaware of any proposals to do so. We would like to see improvements to rail infrastructure in the area to meet the future needs of East Lothian residents.”

Overcrowding on rush-hour trains in East Lothian has been a regular problem in recent years.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government recognises the constraints on the East Coast Main Line corridor, which affect local and cross-border services.

“New longer, greener, quicker Class 385 trains are scheduled to serve communities in East Lothian later in 2018, and at peak times will provide 40 per cent more seating. From now until then, ScotRail are committed to ensuring they provide as much capacity as possible from their current rolling stock fleet to meet passenger demand.

“Additionally, the Government is working with Network Rail in the development of options to meet future capacity projections on the corridor for delivery in the next railway funding period (2019-2024).”