A CAMPAIGN calling for the return of a railway station to Haddington has won the backing of East Lothian’s former MP.

Campaign group RAGES (Rail Action Group East of Scotland) has had a long-term ambition for rail services to be returned to the town after they were removed in the late 1960s.

Now, Martin Whitfield, Labour’s East Lothian candidate for the Scottish Parliament elections in May, has backed the campaign and launched a petition urging the Scottish Government to reinstate the Haddington branch line and open a new train station in the town.

Haddington was left without a railway station at the beginning of February 1968, when freight trains ceased to pass through the town. Passenger services had been withdrawn almost 20 years earlier.

In recent years, East Lothian Council has examined at the possibility of a station returning to the town and included it in its Local Development Plan Action Programme.

The petition, which has been backed by local Labour councillors Shamin Akhtar and John McMillan, refers to Haddington’s rapidly growing population and economic importance as the county town as the main rationale for developing rail access.

Martin Whitfield (right) is calling for the reopening of the Haddington branch line

Martin Whitfield (right) is calling for the reopening of the Haddington branch line

Mr Whitfield, who was previously East Lothian MP before losing his seat in 2019 to the SNP’s Kenny MacAskill, felt there was a need for the station.

He said: “Haddington needs more investment in modern new infrastructure to support this growth and help cope with the increased population and demands on existing services.

“Reinstating the Haddington branch line and constructing a new rail station would help solve many of the town’s current transport problems as well as supporting economic growth.

“Projects like the Borders Railway have demonstrated what can be achieved to improve rail connectivity and I want to see the same level of investment in East Lothian.”

Teacher Mr Whitfield is aiming to succeed Labour colleague Iain Gray as the MSP for East Lothian, with Mr Gray retiring from frontline politics.

READ MORE: RAGES call for return of town's station

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman told the Courier: “Scottish Ministers are committed to ensuring the railway meets future growth needs and are willing to consider proposals for improvement works to current stations, new stations, or reopening existing ones, that arise from a positive transport appraisal which takes account of the impact on the wider rail network.

“East Lothian Council has been awarded a total of £90,000 through the Local Rail Development Fund (LRDF), to help them to carry out their East Lothian access study.

"This work will assess the transport needs and opportunities within East Lothian, and includes Haddington within the study remit.

"They have made their case for change which is the first of the three appraisals in the LRDF process, and East Lothian Council are currently producing their initial options appraisal, the second appraisal for this work.

"It is too premature to say whether Haddington station will be re-opened at this stage of the process, but if East Lothian Council’s appraisal provides a robust Strategic Business Case we will consider it for potential future funding through our rail pipeline process.”

Mr Whitfield called on his election rivals – Euan Davidson (Lib Dems), Craig Hoy (Conservatives) and Paul McLennan (SNP) – to sign the petition, which can be accessed via www.change.org/haddingtonrail