6 September 2016
BORDERS RAILWAY ONE YEAR ON
More passengers than forecast
Lessons for a positive future
Extension proposed to benefit more communities
The first anniversary of the opening of the Borders Railway is an occasion to look to the future, the Campaign for Borders Rail has said.
The route between Tweedbank and Edinburgh has proved more successful in attracting passengers than forecasters predicted. There is a strong case for extending the line to benefit more communities.
Extension would follow enhancement of the existing Borders Railway, with lessons learned from previous experience to prepare for a positive future.
“Official studies into the potential for future extension of rail services to bring direct benefits to even more places should be seen as just the beginning of the next stage of railway development in the Scottish Borders,” said Allan McLean, the retired railway manager who chairs the Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR).
“I appreciate that it will take time to extend the railway. In the meantime, there is an opportunity to enhance the existing service to make it more reliable. Cancellations and delays to the current trains must not hinder future development. In fact, recent experience can inform the future so that lessons are learned to maximise the very real benefits that a reliable train service can bring.”
McLean added that forecasters had got it wrong when they seriously underestimated the number of passengers who would be attracted to the new line between parts of the Borders and Edinburgh through Midlothian.
“The experience of serving many more people than the numbers of passengers officially expected should help inform preparations for future services. Problems that have been experienced can be overcome and should not hinder progress towards extension of the railway,” he said.
The CBR focus is two-fold: the enhancement of the existing line to cope with success and its extension to serve more communities.
CBR would like to see more capacity on the existing route with more double track allowing greater flexibility of operations and better reliability.
Infrastructure improvements proposed separately on the eastern side of Edinburgh would benefit long-distance trains on the East Coast Main Line and local services between Edinburgh and East Lothian. In addition, there would be better performance of Borders trains, which join the East Coast Main Line on a stretch of speed-restricted single track at Portobello Junction, about three miles east of Waverley station.
The opening of the Borders Railway between Tweedbank and Edinburgh on 6 September last year followed many years of campaigning after the closure of the Waverley Route between Carlisle and Edinburgh through Hawick. The successful campaign has inspired others seeking rail openings and reopenings elsewhere in Scotland and England.
“It would be great to see trains running again between Edinburgh and Carlisle through Hawick for the first time since closure in 1969. It has already proved wonderful to see trains through Galashiels once more,” McLean said.
There had been too many cancellations and delays on the Borders Railway but these could be overcome by positive action, including the replacement of unreliable Class 158 two-car diesel trains with more powerful Class 170 three-car diesels.
On 9 September last year, the day when she became Britain’s longest reigning monarch, the Queen officially opened the Borders Railway, which had carried its first public passengers a few days earlier.
The line largely follows the trackbed of the northern part of the Waverley Route although there is a deviation through Shawfair to serve a completely new alignment out of Edinburgh and into Midlothian.
There are stations in the Scottish Borders at Tweedbank, Galashiels and Stow. Then in Midlothian, there are stations at Gorebridge, Newtongrange, Eskbank and Shawfair. Borders trains join tracks that were already open with stations in Edinburgh at Newcraighall, Brunstane and Waverley.
The full line was named the Waverley Route because it served the beautiful country loved by Sir Walter Scott, the author of the Waverley novels, and linked Waverley station, near the Scott Monument in Edinburgh, with Carlisle, the city where Scott was married.
News media contact: Allan McLean, Chairman of the Campaign for Borders Rail,
firstname.lastname@example.org and 07531 129 892