NEWS BLOG

CBR pushes for high-quality bus-rail integration

CBR has written to Scottish Borders Council, arguing the case for high-quality bus-rail integration on the new railway – not just in Gala, but also at the Tweedbank terminus and potentially from Stow over the hills to Lauder. Setting out an eight-point action plan, CBR Chair Simon Walton’s letter to SBC Leader, Cllr David Parker, says:

“The new transport interchange now being built at Galashiels is a welcome and very important initiative, but we also believe that robust timetable and ticketing arrangements must be put in place to make combined bus/rail journeys as seamless as possible. This is vital both to the success of the Borders Railway itself, and to ensure its benefits are shared by communities beyond the immediate catchment area of the route.”

The full letter is at:

140704-SBC-Integration

CBR goes public over ongoing reliability worries

CBR has press-released its letter to the Chief Executive of Transport Scotland, flagging up worries over the impact on Borders train service reliability of cutting back double track and not tackling rail network congestion in eastern Edinburgh.

The release highlights CBR’s call for Transport Scotland to publish its contingency plans for dealing with late running and a request for assurance that any underlying problems will be quickly put right if CBR’s fears over unreliability are realised in practice.

CBR Chair Simon Walton concludes: “Competitive journey times and reliable services are essential if commuters are to switch from their cars to the train in large numbers and ensure that the Borders Railway is the success it deserves to be.”

The press release is attached:

Press_Release_2014_04_28__reliability_plea_for_Borders_Railway

Borders Railway prominent in new issue of Modern Railways magazine

The May issue of ‘Modern Railways’ magazine features two articles on the Borders Railway – railway historian Ann Glen reviews construction progress, while in a 3,000 word piece rail author and CBR life member David Spaven is strongly critical of Transport Scotland over the reduction in loop lengths and the failure to ‘future proof’ road overbridges. He concludes:

“Despite the unnecessary difficulties which the Borders Railway will now face, we should not lose sight of the fact that this is one of the most remarkable rail projects in modern British history. A workforce peaking at 1,000 on any one day is transforming a corridor of 30½ miles, 121 bridges and two tunnels into a safe and sustainable transport link which will partially put right one of the great wrongs of the old model of London-based transport policy. This will be an astonishing achievement for a prospect which was dismissed by all but a handful of rail visionaries just 20 years ago. But will its deserved success be fundamentally undermined by the short-termist approach of Transport Scotland? Only time will tell.”

CBR puts up a final ‘marker’ on train service reliability

With construction works well advanced and the railway due to reopen in a little over a year’s time, CBR has taken the opportunity to clearly re-state – for future reference – its concerns about infrastructure provision and service reliability on the Borders Railway. In a letter to the Chief Executive of Transport Scotland, CBR Chair Simon Walton highlights the vulnerability of the service – following the cutback in double track provision – to delays originating outwith the Borders Railway itself, and says:

“If, despite the reassurances given by Transport Scotland and Network Rail, reliability proves poor, we will expect urgent remedial infrastructure works to remedy the problem. Further relaxation of journey times to provide additional recovery time should not be contemplated…CBR would also ask Transport Scotland to set a clear aspiration for a 55-minute maximum journey time in both directions between Waverley and Tweedbank.”

CBR’s letter to Transport Scotland is attached.

140428-TS-Middleton

CBR presses for refurbished trains on Borders Railway

CBR has urged bidders for the new ScotRail franchise to ensure that Class 158 trains to be deployed on the Borders Railway are refurbished in line with the treatment given to trains serving the scenic Highland lines radiating from Inverness. In letters to all five bidders, CBR says that the train sets – to be cascaded to the Borders from Glasgow-area suburban routes which are currently being electrified – must be refurbished to provide “a service that will convince Borders people to use the train in large numbers”.

Class 158 release copy

Campaigners urge Council to protect land corridor for Borders Rail extension

The Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR) has urged Scottish Borders Council (SBC) to ensure that its Local Development Plan properly protects the alignment of the former Waverley Route south to Hawick and Carlisle from the Tweedbank terminus of the new Borders Railway. In its submission to the Council, CBR welcomes SBC’s strategic support for ‘future extension of the Borders Railway from Tweedbank to Carlisle via Hawick’, but draws attention to the failure to specify protection of a future rail route against prejudicial development in its detailed ‘Settlement Proposals’.

For full press release, see: CBR release re SBC Development Plan Feb 2014

For the CBR submision to SBC, see:

CBR-LDP-Maps

CBR-LDP-Comments

CBR welcomes Council move on Gala interchange

CBR has welcomed news that Scottish Borders Council (SBC) is to drastically cut the planned waiting time at traffic lights for passengers crossing the A7 Ladhope Vale from the new bus station to the new rail station in Gala. It had been suggested previously by SBC that waits of up to 90 seconds would be involved, but following CBR lobbying the Council has now confirmed that the maximum delay will be 30 seconds, in line with Department for Transport national guidelines. CBR had feared that long delays would undermine the success of the railway and would encourage dangerous crossings of the road during the ‘red man’ phase. See full news release:

CBR release re Gala interchange Dec 2013

CBR attacks Transport Scotland over broken promises on timetable

CBR has reacted angrily to news that Transport Scotland has reneged on its long-promised 55-minute maximum journey time from Edinburgh to the Borders Railway terminus at Tweedbank. The draft timetable issued for consultation earlier this week shows that 78% of Edinburgh-Tweedbank trains will be timed to take longer than 55 minutes, as will 39% of trains from Tweedbank to Edinburgh.

CBR believes that the extra time added to the timetable is ‘padding’ to compensate for anticipated service unreliability caused by Transport Scotland’s short-sighted cut-back of double-track provision on the Borders Railway, from 16 miles to just 9 ½ miles.

See full press release on:

CBR 5 Nov 2103 release re timetable

Another campaign success for CBR

Just a year after CBR – together with Claudia Beamish MSP – persuaded Transport Minister Keith Brown that the Tweedbank station tracks should be extended to handle 12-coach tourist charter trains, there’s more good news on the campaigning front. Transport Scotland’s recent Draft Invitation to Tender for the ScotRail franchise reveals that CBR’s lobbying for timetable flexibility to allow charters to reach Tweedbank on peak demand day – Saturdays – has been successful. Section 2.6 of the document specifies that:

“The Scottish Ministers consider that it is desirable to allow the operation of charter and tourist services by other operators on this route to promote tourism. The Franchisee will be required to facilitate such operation, and cooperate through alterations to its regular timetabled service, at no additional cost.”

Over many years, CBR (and formerly the Waverley Route Trust) has been arguing that its research demonstrated that some 50% of charter train arrivals at Scottish destinations are on Saturdays – generally in the middle of the day – but that the half-hourly ScotRail train service frequency left no spare route capacity for charters except in the evenings and on Sundays. Now the Borders Railway will be able to welcome trains from across Britain bringing valuable additional visitor spend to the regional economy.

It’s unfortunate that the limitations of Transport Scotland’s infrastructure specification means that the price of properly tapping the charter market is dropping the ScotRail frequency to hourly for a few hours on Saturdays (mostly during the summer) – but at least trains can be operated with double the number of seats at these times.