ScotRail must reflect ambition not austerity says Campaign for Borders Rail
The Campaign for Borders Rail, the influential community group lobbying for a new strategic cross-border rail link between Scotland and England, has welcomed ScotRail’s decision to restore Borders Railway services to pre-pandemic levels on a trial basis.
The Campaign, along with other stakeholders, put forward a well-articulated case against austerity-driven cutbacks in response to ScotRail’s ‘Fit for the Future’ consultation, which sought views on their proposals for new timetables starting in May 2022. The initial consultation proposals would have seen just hourly services on weekdays, except during peak hours, continuing a pattern set during the pandemic when the previous half-hourly all-day service was cut.
Welcoming the decision to fully restore the half-hourly service, a spokesperson for the Campaign said, “Prior to the pandemic the Borders Railway saw around two million journeys a year, far more than predictions made before the line opened in 2015. We believe that given appropriate support, ridership will reach similar levels within a relatively short timeframe. Our message to decision-makers today is that if you want passenger numbers to return to normal then you need to run a full service”.
Restoration of an all-day half-hourly service throughout the week is welcome news, says the Campaign, noting however that the half-hourly off-peak services are being reintroduced on a trial basis. To accurately measure latent demand for an attractive and commercially successful ‘turn-up-and-go’ 30-minute frequency, the Campaign strongly urges ScotRail to maintain the trial throughout the year to capture a full season’s traffic.
Most peak-hour services with six coaches, three coaches at other times is applauded by the Campaign. However, special consideration must be given to running six coach trains at times of significant regional demand – particularly the days of all home rugby internationals, sporting and civic events. It is noted with regret that the recent Calcutta Cup match at Murrayfield in Edinburgh was inadequately served by Borders Railway train formations, resulting once again in significant overcrowding and disincentive for would-be passengers. Overcrowding also inhibits ticket checks, resulting in fares going uncollected and undermining accurate assessment of the popularity and potential of the line.
A thirty-minute frequency of service for Stow is considered a major achievement. The north-Borders community and surrounding settlements, principally the nearby market town of Lauder, will finally enjoy the same level of service as other communities on the line. This will be a significant boost for local initiatives there such as the award-winning Stow Station House project, strongly backed by the Campaign (https://stowhub.co.uk/category/station-house/).
The public have a part to play in the recovery and continued success of the Borders Railway. The Campaign is unequivocal in its call to “get back on track” and enjoy all that the Borders Railway has to offer, whether for commuting, business or pleasure.
The Campaign continues to advocate for ‘ambition above austerity’ and will continue to put its case for economic development, social inclusion and environmental sustainability for the community locally, the Borderlands at large, and the strategic benefits nationally of completing the Borders Railway with an extension through Hawick to Carlisle.
Notes for editors:
The Campaign for Borders Rail is a long-established pressure group promoting the benefits of modern train services for communities across the Borderlands. Our grassroots campaign saw the rail link from Edinburgh to the Scottish Borders reopened. Now we’re lobbying to extend the popular Borders Railway onward to Hawick and Carlisle. Visit the Campaign website for further details.
For further comment, contact Campaign spokesperson Simon Walton on 07540 313018.