Tourist and leisure passengers – originally dismissed as of marginal importance – may now be a crucial factor in the success of the Borders Railway, says CBR in its latest press release. We argue that without our sustained campaigning to over-turn a downbeat verdict on tourist potential in the original railway feasibility study, the line would not have had enough track and platform capacity at Tweedbank for this crucial market. As a result, campaigners have ‘saved Scottish Government blushes’ over what would have been ‘an embarrassingly sub-optimal offer to the tourist market’.
For the full press release see: Aug 2015 CBR Release 3
The key role played by community campaigners in the return of trains to the Borders should be properly acknowledged by the political establishment, says CBR in its latest press release. We say that ‘there is a danger that history gets rewritten so that the current Scottish Government gets all the credit for the Borders Railway, while the absolutely crucial role of unpaid grassroots campaigners over a 17-year period is forgotten’.
See the full release on CBR Press Release 2
CBR has urged campaigners lobbying for the re-opening of other rail lines in Scotland to learn the lessons of the 17-year Borders campaign culminating in the return of trains on 6th September 2015 – which CBR describes as ‘one of the greatest achievements of grassroots rail campaigning in British history’. And acknowledgment of our pioneering work has come from two campaigns in Fife which are hoping to be the next to put new routes on the Scottish railway map.
See: CBR Press Release 1
Launching the new edition of his book Waverley Route: the battle for the Borders Railway, author (and CBR activist) David Spaven argues that tourist and leisure passengers – originally dismissed as of marginal importance – may now be a crucial factor in the success of the Borders Railway: ‘The official traffic forecasts for the line are very conservative…and traffic modelling techniques really haven’t been able to address the non-commuting markets adequately…my feeling is that tourist and leisure passengers to the Borders stations and to Newtongrange – for the National Mining Museum – could be the key to the railway exceeding its patronage forecasts.’
David also praises the role of CBR in persuading the political establishment that tourism should be a central factor in the promotion of the railway, adding that ‘it would be good to see the key successes of Borders rail campaigners – largely unsung over the years – properly acknowledged during the re-opening celebrations on 4th to 6th September.’
Waverley Route: the battle for the Borders Railway – which is a 272-page paperback with a revised selection of over 100 illustrations – incorporates fresh archive material from the 1960s and reveals new insider insights into the political tensions throughout the 21-year battle to re-open the railway. It is available from Argyll Publishing on:
The ScotRail trains to be operated on the Borders Railway will be refurbished in line with units serving scenic Highland routes. CBR’s packed AGM in Gala on 6th November applauded the announcement by Mike Kean – UK Rail Development Director of Dutch company Abellio who take over the ScotRail franchise next May – that, in response to a request from Transport Scotland, the trains will be upgraded like units serving the Far North and Kyle lines.
Although not all will be refurbished in time for the start of Borders Railway service, this is very welcome news, and represents another campaign success for CBR. The Inverness-based Class 158s have a spacious ambience, with good alignment of seats to windows, plus additional space for bikes and luggage.
Simon Walton, chairman of CBR responded that refurbished trains would provide a much better experience for commuters and visitors alike. “We’ve lobbied for better trains all along,” he said. “This refurbishment announcement is seen as the latest significant success for our continued campaigning work.”
The full CBR release is on:
CBR 2014 AGM release
The first main-line train since 1972 has now reached the solum of the abandoned Waverley Route. Just after 14.30 on a wet Monday 13th October, GB Railfreight 66 736 propelled the tracklaying train through Kingsgate Points where the new Borders Railway alignment via Shawfair joins the original route from Millerhill, as shown in David Spaven’s photo below. The last previous train through here was a track recovery working in late 1972. [With apologies to the Waverley Route Heritage Association!]
Monday 6th October saw the first rail-laying train on the Borders Railway start work when a Dutch machine began heading south from Newcraighall. CBR’s intrepid photographer waited two and a half hours in a howling gale to record this unique occasion, as portrayed in two photos reproduced here:
2522 – The first rail-laying train on the Borders Railway. Just before 10.00 on a dreich Monday 6th October, the train begins inching its way south from Newcraighall, propelled by GB Railfreight 66 736. Track laying up to this point (with 60 ft rails) had been by means of cranes and other mobile equipment. Millerhill loco stabling point is in the background. [Photo: David Spaven]
2524 – Just after 10.00 on Monday 6th October, the rail-laying train inches steadily southwards from Newcraighall, propelled by GB Railfreight 66 736. The train is on what will become the Up line to Tweedbank (the logic being that the ECML from Waverley station is Up – to London – so it makes sense to continue that designation for the Borders Railway). Sister loco 66 726 sits on what will be the Down line to Edinburgh. [Photo: David Spaven]
Abellio, a subsidiary of Dutch state railways, has won the new ScotRail franchise it was announced today – and will therefore be the first operator of the new Borders Railway. Leaving aside the issue of whether the new franchise should have been postponed pending potential new transport powers to come to the Scottish Parliament, it’s clear that Abellio has some exciting plans, a taste of which came in their press release today:
“Working with partners to attract international attention to the scenic beauty of Scotland’s railways with major upgrades to Scotland’s scenic trains to enhance the tourist experience:
• Specially refurbished trains to align seats with windows
• More luggage, cycle and ski storage
• Additional service to Oban in peak season
• A Tourist Ambassador and improved on board catering that showcases local Scottish produce
• Special events in the low season to attract customers”
CBR has just issued its latest newsletter (attached), which includes details of the AGM to be held on 6th November at St Peters Church, Galashiels. We already have one excellent guest speaker confirmed and will shortly be announcing other guests. A big attendance is expected at this last AGM before the railway opens.
Just two days after the announcement of a major tourism initiative for the Borders Railway, The Scotsman has revealed to readers that the only way tourist charter trains can be accommodated on the single-track railway will be to reduce the half-hourly daytime frequency of ScotRail services. Much to the frustration of CBR, from as far back as the original Scott Wilson feasibility study in 2000, the Borders Railway infrastructure has been designed to provide capacity for half-hourly ScotRail trains, but with no paths for any other services, except in the evenings and on Sundays, when ScotRail frequency will be reduced to hourly. Rail author and CBR member David Spaven is quoted in the Scotsman story:
“Reducing the ScotRail train frequency to hourly in the middle of the day on Saturdays to accommodate tourist charter trains is not ideal, but the hourly ScotRail trains can be lengthened to cater for the extra demand.
“It’s very unfortunate the railway promoters and the political establishment ignored rail campaigners when they were pointing out these infrastructure constraints on tourist potential more than ten years ago. They were warned, but chose to ignore well-informed advice.”
CBR has welcomed the 20th August Scottish Government announcement of a major push to develop tourist potential on the Borders Railway. Announcing that ScotRail services will begin operations on 6th September 2015, First Minister Alex Salmond also unveiled plans for a “steam train experience” on the line, followed by a “significant expansion” when a visitor centre for the Great Tapestry of Scotland opens beside Tweedbank station.
A feasibility study will look at how the area can benefit from the railway, and other measures announced to help boost the tourism potential of the new railway include lengthening of the platform at Gala to accommodate charters and a new footpath direct from Newtongrange Station to the Scottish Mining Museum. CBR Chair, Simon Walton, was quoted in The Scotsman (and other media outlets):
‘Campaign for Borders Rail chairman Simon Walton said: “It’s gratifying so many recommendations made by the campaign are being actively discussed, although I would have hoped for some greater acknowledgement of our efforts, and recourse to our body of expertise.”’
Simon’s comment refers in part of course to the fact that if it had not been for lobbying by CBR and latterly Claudia Beamish MSP, the platform tracks at Tweedbank station would have been too short to accommodate commercially-viable charters – and the First Minister would now be cursing his officials for not understanding this vital market for the railway!