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!
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:
CBR’s latest newsletter provides a comprehensive eight-page update on CBR’s recent campaigning activities, news of the progress of the Borders Railway project and Nick Bethune’s reflections on what the loss of the railway meant (and still means) to Newcastleton:
CBR — Newsletter #45 — June 2014 website version
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:
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.”
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.
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
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 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