Press release from Borders Rail Monitor – for immediate publication 3rd December 2016


Responding to ScotRail announcements [1] on the first year’s patronage of the Borders Railway and the planned introduction of extra coaches on the line’s trains, David Spaven of the Borders Rail Monitor group [2] commented:

‘The big story here is the shocking failure of rail forecasting. All three Borders stations have performed massively better than forecast [3] – by a factor of more than seven times better in the case of Tweedbank, and more than four times better at both Galashiels and Stow.

‘But all four stations in Midlothian, with the exception of Newtongrange, have had substantially fewer passengers than expected. This is in part a reflection of the poor levels of reliability on the Borders Railway, with Midlothian stations being particularly affected by trains which skip intermediate stops in order to catch up time. At Newtongrange, which performed relatively close to forecast – the only station on the new railway to do so – this almost certainly reflects the local leisure and tourist market, with passengers to the Scottish Mining Museum being less concerned about rail reliability than regular commuters. And rail in Midlothian has to compete with much more intensive bus services than are available from the Borders to Edinburgh.

‘Borders people continue to use the railway in large numbers despite its reliability problems, demonstrating the extent to which bus and car competition to Edinburgh is constrained by road congestion. In the case of Galashiels, for example, the train is more than half an hour faster to Edinburgh than the competing X95 bus. And the regularly full-to-overflowing car park at Tweedbank station demonstrates that demand for rail is probably now being suppressed at the line’s terminus.

‘It is encouraging that Transport Scotland is now – at long last – reviewing its rail forecasting techniques. But if we had had robust forecasting five years ago, the Borders stations’ forecasts would not have been so ludicrously pessimistic, the rail project’s business case would have been far better, double track on the Borders Railway would not have been cut back from 16 miles to nine and a half miles, and the railway would have been much more reliable than it has proved to be in practice.’

Commenting on the planned introduction of additional coaches on some trains, Mr Spaven said:

‘The strengthening of some trains is very welcome, but not all the key overcrowded trains are being tackled, and the overall increase in daily seating capacity is actually less than 5%. With their Performance Improvement Plan underway, ScotRail need to be planning for further increases in train capacity as service reliability improves. The decision to replace the unsatisfactory 2-coach Class 158 trains with 3-coach Class 170 trains once the Edinburgh-Glasgow line is electrified is very good news, but Borders Railway travellers need to see more of the superior Class 170s well before the 2017-18 electrification.’

MORE INFO: David Spaven on 0131 447 7764

[1] In a press release on 2nd December 2016, ScotRail indicated “that 1.3m passenger journeys were made on the Borders line in the first 12 months of operation, broadly in line with business case projections” and announced that “2,700 extra seats each week” will be provided on the Borders Railway through the strengthening of selected trains.
[2] The Borders Rail Monitor group is led by rail campaigners Bill Jamieson and David Spaven, who were long-time activists with the Campaign for Borders Rail and the Waverley Route Trust. They have been monitoring performance since late-October 2015, using data from the Realtime Trains web site, which in turn uses Network Rail data. Their key findings include:

· ‘Right Time’ arrivals at Tweedbank station (ie within 1 minute of schedule, or not more than 59 seconds late) have never exceeded 66.2% across any one week

· ‘Right Time’ arrivals at Edinburgh Waverley station have never exceeded 49.8% across any one week

· Not since May 2016 has the Borders Railway experienced a week without any train cancellations.

[3] The table below shows Transport Scotland’s 2012 Business Case forecasts for Year 1, ScotRail’s actual patronage figures for Year 1, and the actual v. forecast variance. Please note that ScotRail have not provided the data for travel from Haymarket and Edinburgh Park stations to Borders Railway stations, so there are clearly more passengers using the Borders Railway than the 1,306,750 total presented here.



  1. Can I thank the Campaign for Borders Rail for all its work? Having expressed that sentiment and while acknowledging the issues, I feel that this press release is inappropriately and unhelpfully negative.

    I have been a weekly commuter between Haymarket and Galashiels since the railway opened (and before by car or on the X95 bus). I give the Borders Railway full marks as a roaring success. In that time, my train has been cancelled only twice, causing a delay of 30 mins, has been late waiting at the end of a passing loop for a delayed southbound through train from Fife once. It is orders of magnitude more comfortable, more reliable and faster than bus or car.

    Thank you, Transport Scotland for your courage and far sightedness to see this project through, despite all the “nay sayers”. Thank you Network Rail for your sound project management that delivered the construction on time and within budget. May we learn from this and take it on to Hawick as the next priority, and then perhaps from St. Boswells to Kelso and Berwick via Coldstream (Cornhill). That will really put the border towns on the map and ensure their survival and development. And if we have to have more single track with passing loops to get the extension within an achievable cost, much better that than no further new railway. The rest can be sorted out later when the demand has proved itself.

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