Monitoring group has published report on ‘seriously underperforming’ Borders Railway


Press release from Borders Rail Monitor

In 45 weeks out of 52 since late-October 2015, train services on the new Borders Railway from Tweedbank to Edinburgh failed to meet ScotRail’s contractual punctuality target of 92.5% of trains arriving within 5 minutes of schedule, a new report [1] has revealed. The report, by Borders Rail Monitor, also shows that on 40 weeks Edinburgh-Tweedbank services failed to meet the punctuality target – known as the Public Performance Measure (PPM) – while Borders Railways trains were cancelled on 47 weeks.

The report was co-written by rail campaigners David Spaven and Bill Jamieson [2], and is based on one year’s monitoring of performance from late-October 2015 to late-October 2016, using data from the Realtime Trains web site [3], which in turn uses Network Rail data. Their main conclusion is that: ‘Overall, the evidence to date suggests that it is extremely difficult to consistently operate the Borders Railway to timetable.’ The authors argue that while Abellio, the operator of ScotRail, has been the target of most media criticism:

‘…it is important to acknowledge deeper underlying factors for which Abellio cannot be held responsible. It was, for example, Transport Scotland which determined the constrained infrastructure specification for the Borders Railway and the decision to deploy Class 158 units – the least reliable diesel units in Scotland – for a route with steep gradients and multiple stops on every train service.’

Other key performance results revealed by the report include:

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

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

The authors criticise Transport Scotland’s decision to cut back the 30½-mile line’s infrastructure specification from 16 miles of double track to just 9½ miles, and contrast this with the 6½ miles of new roads – paid for by the rail project – having been built ‘to the highest possible standards’. They suggest that the track cut-back was ‘a response to the supposedly poor Business Case for the railway, which was in part a consequence of seriously flawed patronage forecasting for Transport Scotland, particularly in the case of the Borders stations.’ Actual recorded patronage in the first six months of operation was 869% above forecast at Tweedbank, 409% above at Galashiels, and 375% above at Stow, despite the service quality problems.

The authors suggest a range of actions needed [4] from the main stakeholders – ScotRail, Network Rail and Transport Scotland – to address the ‘serious operational underperformance’ of the Borders Railway, and recommend that ScotRail should commission passenger satisfaction surveys, encompassing both continuing passengers and lapsed passengers who have abandoned the Borders train service due to poor service quality relative to alternatives such as the car and the bus.

The report – which has been submitted to Transport Scotland and the ScotRail Alliance (with Network Rail) – also notes that in September 2016, Scotland’s Transport Minister instructed ScotRail to deliver a recovery plan for the Borders Railway, but the authors say ‘it is too early to conclude whether this is having a significant impact. However, not since late May 2016 has a week passed without a train cancellation, nor have Tweedbank-Edinburgh trains achieved the PPM target across any one week since early May, a period of over 5½ months.’


David Spaven on 0131-447-7764 or 07917-877399
Bill Jamieson on 01578-730262


[1] The ‘Borders Railway Performance – Year 1 Report’ is attached here: borders-railway-performance-year-1-report

[2] Bill Jamieson and David Spaven campaigned (individually, and with the Campaign for Borders Rail and the Waverley Route Trust) for the return of the railway over a period of more than 20 years from the mid-1990s until the opening of the line in 2015.


[4] The report sets out 15 short, medium and long term actions to improve performance, including redeploying, as soon as possible, more reliable 3-car Class 170 units to the Borders to replace 2-car Class 158s, and in the longer term (from 2019) doubling the single-track pinch point at Portobello Junction on the East Coast Main Line (ECML), increasing capacity on the congested ECML section from Portobello Junction to Waverley station, and extending the length of double track on the Borders Railway itself.


Borders transport study should focus on rail potential


The Campaign for Borders Rail appreciates that there are many and varied transport needs in the Scottish Borders.  

A campaign spokesman said: “The resounding success of the new railway in tapping into huge and unpredicted demand for rail travel is a clear indication of the potential for capitalising on that success, which can only be achieved by extending the line southwards to benefit a larger catchment area.  The consideration of possible road improvements across the region, for example to tackle accident black-spots, should be a separate exercise and should not be allowed to affect or diminish the Scottish Government’s clear commitment to examine the feasibility of extending the new railway.”

The Campaign for Borders Rail welcomes confirmation that significantly more people have used the Borders Railway between Tweedbank and Edinburgh in its first year of operation than was formally expected. The campaign is also looking forward to the results of a promised study into the potential for railway development in the Borders.

“The return of trains is incredibly popular in the Scottish Borders. The line has boosted the economies of the Borders and Midlothian. This proves that people were right to argue for so long in favour of railway services. The time has now come to enhance the existing route to match the level of demand and to prepare for the extension of tracks to serve more communities by train,” said Allan McLean, the retired railway manager who chairs the Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR).

Politicians from different political parties have backed the concept of a study into the potential for extension of the railway. For example, it was widely reported that on a visit to Hawick earlier this year, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said that it made sense to look at extending the line to other communities in view of the success of the existing route.

Notes to Editors: The Borders Railway is largely on the trackbed of the northern third of the Waverley Route that closed in 1969 between Edinburgh and Carlisle through Galashiels and Hawick. There is a deviation from the original alignment between Edinburgh and Midlothian to serve a new development at Shawfair. There are stations at Tweedbank, Galashiels, Stow, Gorebridge, Newtongrange, Eskbank and Shawfair and Borders trains also serve stations in Edinburgh at Newcraighall, Brunstane and Waverley. The Borders Railway was formally opened by the Queen on 9 September 2015, a few days after initial passengers were carried by ScotRail.

News Media contact for the CBR: Allan McLean, phone 07531 129 892 or email

Borders Railway One Year On

MSPs elected May 2016

Members of the Scottish Parliament from May 2016, Campaign for Borders Rail

MSPs from different parties are of interest to supporters of the Campaign for Borders Rail who seek enhancement of the line that opened last September and extension of the role of rail in the Scottish Borders. During the election campaign in the weeks running up to 5 May 2016, there was cross-party support for the aims of CBR, including a proposed study into rail extension. This offers encouragement for the future, regardless of party affiliations.

Some 73 MSPs, Members of the Scottish Parliament, have been elected on the first-past-the-post constituency system, while 56 others have been elected through regional lists of names put forward by different political parties.

Following the election to the Scottish Parliament on 5 May, the SNP is the biggest single party with 63 seats. The Conservatives are in second place with 31 seats and Labour third with 24. There are also six Green MSPs and five LibDems. MSPs were sworn in on 12 May.

Three stations that were already there in Edinburgh are in two constituencies. The seven new Borders Railway stations are in two constituencies. Other stations that could potentially be opened or reopened within Scottish Borders are in some cases in another constituency. Two regional list areas are of interest: Lothian and South Scotland.

These are the Lothian list MSPs: Jeremy Balfour (Conservative), Miles Briggs (Conservative), Kezia Dugdale (Labour), Neil Findlay (Labour), Alison Johnstone (Green), Gordon Lindhurst (Conservative) and Andy Wightman (Green). And the South Scotland list MSPs: Claudia Beamish (Labour), Rachael Hamilton (Conservative), Emma Harper (SNP), Joan McAlpine (SNP), Colin Smyth (Labour), Paul Wheelhouse (SNP) and Brian Whittle (Conservative).

Stations at Tweedbank, Galashiels, Stow, Gorebridge and Newtongrange are in the Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale constituency where the MSP continues to be the SNP’s Christine Grahame.

The Midlothian stations at Eskbank and Shawfair are in Midlothian North and Musselburgh, held again by Colin Beattie MSP, SNP.

Newcraighall and Brunstane are in Edinburgh Eastern, where the SNP’s Kenny MacAskill has stood down and has been followed by a new SNP MSP, Ash Denham.

Edinburgh Waverley is in Edinburgh Central, where the SNP’s Marco Biagi stood down. The new MSP is Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party.

Hawick, Kelso and Reston are among potential stations in Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, where the Scottish Conservatives’ John Lamont has been re-elected as MSP.

Note that RAGES, Rail Action Group East of Scotland, is on the case for proposed new stations on the East Coast Main Line at East Linton (East Lothian) and Reston (in the Eastern Scottish Borders). There is a suggestion that the new cross-border franchise of First Group’s TransPennine could take on one or more of these stations instead of Abellio ScotRail.

The total number of MSPs is 129. All MSPs have the same status, whether elected on a regional list or for a specific constituency. The next Scottish Parliament election is due to be in May 2021. Scottish council elections are in May 2017.

Allan P McLean, Campaign for Borders Rail                                                12 May 2016

Flying Scotsman – visit to Borders Railway

PRESS RELEASE 1100hrs, 14 May 2016
A Huge Insult To Scotland
Campaigners say Network Rail has completely failed to understand the vast ramifications of cancelling the Flying Scotsman visit to Borders and calls for a public enquiry.
Campaign for Borders Rail says nothing short of a public enquiry will satisfy the anger felt across the community at the failure by Network Rail to make the necessary preparations of the visit of Flying Scotsman to the Borders Railway.  In a statement, the Campaign said Network Rail was paid public money to build the Borders Railway and make it suitable for Flying Scotsman and other steam locomotives to make occasional journeys to help boost Scottish tourism.
Allan McLean, Chairman of the Campaign for Borders Rail, noted: “Network Rail says it never had enough time to arrange for an event a lot of people had been looking forward to for months.  Network Rail is using its own incompetence to try to justify the unjustifiable.  There’s a two-word Scottish response to this insult: Aye, right!”
Allan McLean added there was no excuse for this failure to perform the job the infrastructure company was employed to do.  “This is a massive insult to Scotland,” he said.  “From the distant vantage point of Network Rail HQ in Milton Keynes, this represents nothing more than yet another administrative error resulting in the cavalier cancellation of a charter train, for which several hundred people have paid premium fares to enjoy a spacial day out.  What they have totally failed to comprehend is the iconic nature of this particular visit, and the tens of thousands of visitors this particular occasion would bring to the Borders.”
The Campaign, which is still working vigorously to see the Borders Railway extended through Hawick to Carlisle, has been heavily involved in lobbying for charter facilities on the railway and is actively engaged in the tourism effort for the line.
Simon Walton, past chairman and the Campaign’s representative on the Scottish Borders Tourism Partnership, articulated the wider implications of this cancellation.  “It’s not just the passengers on the charter and the organisers and operators of the train that have been inexcusably let down,” he said.  “The whole Borders community has gotten behind the tourism potential of the line.  This excursion represented one of the biggest opportunities yet to use the line as a huge tourism boost for the Borders.”
Mr Walton added: “Far more than a charter train, of which there have been many already on the line, this was a showcase event, particularly for the town of Galashiels, where huge effort has gone into promoting and commemorating the visit.  This has let down residents, businesses, local authorities and tens of thousands of would-be visitors.  It’s a massive publicly blow for the Borders.  Network Rail cannot be allowed to stand aloof from this deplorable dereliction of duty.”
Allan McLean noted that given the public funding of the railway, and the leading role taken by Network Rail, their behaviour must be brought to account.  “This is a huge insult to Scotland by an organisation that has zero credibility, unalloyed by its huge efforts to spin its repeated failures in many aspects of running and developing the national railway network.  There must be corporate accountability to the people of the Borders and Scotland, and individuals must pay with their careers for this gross incompetence.  We demand the regulator, the Office of Rail and Road, investigate their conduct, and a public enquiry needs to be convened so this autonomous juggernaut is brought to book.”
Allan McLean, CBR Chairman 07531 129892
Simon Walton, CBR Spokesman 07540 313018
Notes to Editors

The Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR), established in 1998, is one of Britain’s most successful grassroots rail campaigns. CBR’s initial aim will be realised on 6th September 2015 when ScotRail services begin running over the new Borders Railway from Tweedbank and Galashiels to Edinburgh – bringing trains back after an absence of more than 45 years. CBR’s next objective is to see the railway extended to Hawick and Carlisle, completing the return of the Waverley Route closed in 1969 as part of the ‘Beeching cuts’ – which saw the Borders become the only region of Britain without a rail service, and left Galashiels and Hawick further from the rail network than any other towns of their size in Britain. .

As well as the core strategic achievement of the return of a railway from Edinburgh through Midlothian to Tweedbank, local rail campaigners – notably CBR, Stow Station Supporters Group and the Waverley Route Trust – can take credit for some important supporting successes, a number of them achieved in the face of official resistance:

first coining the ‘Borders Railway’ name (in 2003)

persuading Parliament to include a station stop at Stow when none was to be provided (the Scottish Parliament passed the Waverley Railway (Scotland) Act in 2006)

saving of the original 1849 station building at Stow from demolition (2011), with the potential for beneficial community re-use

Tweedbank station track layout redesigned to take 12-coach tourist trains, providing the basic infrastructure needed to bring additional tourist spend to the Borders (2012)

a requirement for the new ScotRail train operator to accommodate ‘paths’ for tourist charter trains to fit in with the regular service timetable (2013)

cutting the maximum waiting time at the A7 pedestrian crossing from bus to rail stations in Gala from 90 to 30 seconds, improving convenience and safety for rail passengers (2013)

the first train of the day to Edinburgh retimed to provide a robust connection into the 06.25 service to London (2014)

persuading Transport Scotland that the Class 158 trains should be refurbished to provide better window/seat matching and enhanced luggage/cycle space (2014).

Extending the Borders Railway to Hawick and Carlisle

The Campaign continues to  work towards extending the Borders Railway south to Hawick and Carlisle. The old route passed through Melrose, Newtown St Boswells, Hawick, Newcastleton and Longtown. The final route will subject to a professional study of the options, and may vary from the old route. However, the old route has been given a measure of protection by the planning authorities, and most of the engineering structures and track bed are intact.

During May, Campaign for Borders Rail will be distributing flyers to every postal address in TD1, TD6, TD7 and TD8 (Galashiels, Selkirk, Melrose, Newtown, St Boswells, Jedburgh).  Some of those areas are already enjoying the benefits of the Borders Railway  for travel towards Edinburgh – but they also stand to benefit from its being extended. A railway south to Hawick and Carlisle is expected to boost population, employment, investment and tourism in the area,  and open up direct travel opportunities towards the north-west of England, including Manchester Airport and London. Other benefits of the railway extension are outlined in the flyer. Please click on the link below.


Bridge problem strengthens case for re-opening cross-Border rail line


News Release

22 January 2016


The closure for several weeks of the West Coast Main Line because of weather-related damage to a bridge carrying the railway over the Clyde at Lamington in South Lanarkshire strengthens the case for re-opening rail access between Edinburgh and Carlisle through Hawick.

That’s the view of the Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR) which seeks enhancement and extension of the Borders Railway that opened through Midlothian and part of the Scottish Borders last September.

“A wrong was committed against Scotland and the North of England in 1969 when the Waverley Route was closed between Edinburgh and Carlisle,” said Allan McLean, chairman of the CBR.

“Part of the old route was formally reopened by the Queen last year but now we want to see other communities reconnected to Edinburgh and Carlisle by train, including Hawick. The current terminus of the Borders Railway at Tweedbank between Galashiels and Melrose should only be regarded as temporary,” he added. “The case for reinstating tracks all the way from Tweedbank to Carlisle is strengthened by the news that closure of the other route between Edinburgh and Carlisle through Lockerbie will go on for longer than expected.”

“Alternative services between Carlisle and Glasgow have been provided because the diversionary route via Dumfries and Kilmarnock was kept. By contrast, passengers between North West England and Edinburgh are having to use rail-replacement buses or suffer lengthy detours.  If there was still a direct line of rails between the capital of Scotland and the Cumbrian city of Carlisle through the Scottish Borders, much damage to the economy could have been avoided.”

McLean said that the CBR supports proposals by politicians and others for extension of the Borders Railway and for detailed studies to be carried out into what should be done. He stressed that reconnecting more Borders communities directly to the rail network would provide an economic boost as well as offering flexibility for diversions when necessary.

Trains on the former Waverley Route ran from Edinburgh to Carlisle, a distance of almost 100 miles, for more than 100 years until closure in January 1969. That line through Galashiels, Melrose, Newtown St Boswells and Hawick offered the shortest rail distance between Edinburgh and Carlisle.

The Borders Railway between Edinburgh and Tweedbank uses a new trackbed out of Edinburgh and into Midlothian but otherwise follows a significant part of the old Waverley Route. In addition to intermediate stations on existing track at Brunstane and Newcraighall, stations were opened on the Borders Railway at Shawfair, Eskbank, Newtongrange, Gorebridge, Stow, Galashiels and Tweedbank.

Note to editors: Allan McLean of the Campaign for Borders Rail can be contacted by phone on

07531 129 892 or by email at

CBR warned ScotRail about high levels of demand

In response to claims by ScotRail that the level of interest in travelling on the new railway has been ‘remarkable’, CBR has pointed out that it warned the rail operator that it would need to pull out all the stops to ensure that travellers new to rail get the best possible experience in the first weeks of the Borders Railway. The opening week of the new railway has been fraught with too many late trains and too much overcrowding on trains restricted to 2 coaches rather than 4 or 6.

For a reminder of what CBR said in its 31st August press release, see: Press release 4 from Campaign for Borders Rail

‘Onwards to Hawick and Carlisle’ says CBR

In its sixth and final press release in a month-long programme of publicity, CBR has called for a renewed push to extend the line southwards from Tweedbank to Hawick and Carlisle. Reflected in our new slogan – ‘building on success’ – we expect the popularity of the Borders Railway to boost the case for further rail reinstatement.

For the full release, see: CBR new Press Release 6