A SEVEN-FIGURE funding gap will need to be filled if a new pedestrian crossing of the East Coast Main Line at Dunbar is to be created.

An underpass connecting Hallhill – south of the busy line – and the Tree Scheme, north of the line, is expected to cost in excess of £1.5 million.

Funding of £230,000 from a housing developer has been secured but, with finances stretched at both East Lothian Council and national organisations, it is unclear when the project could get off the ground.

Currently, there are three pedestrian underpasses to the east of the Hallhill Sports Centre.

A new tunnel under the line would be created to the west to allow people, particularly youngsters, to get to the other side of the line without having to walk towards the sport centre and then return on the opposite side of the line towards the primary and secondary school.

Councillor Norman Hampshire, who represents the town on the local authority and is also council leader, told the Courier that there was a “huge” shortfall.

He said: “My own view is it needs to be done.

“I don’t know where it will be funded but it has to be done at some time.

“The movement of people between the two parts of the community, the railway line is a barrier.

“There needs to be a better pedestrian route, especially for children.”

Planning permission was given at the end of 2021 for nearly 250 homes at Hallhill North.

As part of the approval, various funds were set aside, including £232,044 for creating a crossing of the line, which connects Dunbar with Edinburgh and the north of England.

Mr Hampshire told the Courier that discussions had taken place with Network Rail about a proposed crossing, with an underpass favoured over a bridge.

The possibility of reopening a now-blocked-up underpass connecting the two areas was previously explored but ruled out due to the associated costs.

Instead, a new underpass would be created near the closed version.

According to the councillor, active travel charity Sustrans has also given an indication that it would back an underpass.

Mr Hampshire said: “They would be delighted to see it.

“There would be a big benefit to the movement of people round the town on foot or on bike.

“They would make a contribution but the gap we have is too much for it to be filled in.”

Despite the challenges, the Labour councillor stressed that he was “committed” to seeing the crossing being created.

He could give no indication of when it could be in place but said: “Dunbar cannot function as well as it could if there is not an underpass on that west side of the town.

“The financial position we are in, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

“The financial position we are in, until the changes, I could not give any sort of timeframe for that to be done.

“If I can find the money to do it, I will be doing it.

“I have told that to council officers as well and that is why it is still in the plan.”