Published: 31st May 2016
The Borders Railway in Scotland has proved more successful than earlier forecasts suggested.
In the first six months of the line, which opened between Edinburgh and Tweedbank in September 2015, it carried almost 700,000 passengers. This was 22 per cent more than had been forecast by the Scottish Government’s agency, Transport Scotland.
Campaigners believe that this vindicates the case for extending the route beyond the current terminus at Tweedbank, between Galashiels and Melrose, possibly to Hawick and Carlisle.
Much of the current line follows part of the trackbed of the Waverley Route that closed over the 98 miles between Edinburgh and Carlisle through Hawick in 1969. The distance of around 30 miles of the current Borders Railway is mostly on the old alignment but there is a significant deviation onto a new route through Shawfair on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
The high passenger figures were hailed on 31 May by leading lights in Scottish politics and transport in an event at Edinburgh Waverley Station, which is named after the first novel of Sir Walter Scott whose home at Abbotsford in the Borders is a major attraction for visitors using the railway.
Houmza Yousaf MSP, Scotland’s new transport Minister, said:
“There has been a surge of interest in the Borders Railway since it reopened last year; this is evident in the number of people who have travelled on the line over the first six months since opening.
“These figures are fantastic news for the region, further justifying the decision to bring a railway line back to the Borders for the first time in over 40 years.
“The reintroduction of a rail service to the Borders is opening up communities in the South-East of Scotland as new places to live, work and visit. Far from resting on our laurels the Scottish Government is now continuing our work with stakeholders, through the Borders Blueprint, to ensure that we build upon this positive start to support new opportunities, such as housing, commercial and leisure development along the Borders Railway corridor.
“The success of the Borders Railway is further proof that Scotland’s rail links are a powerful catalyst for economic growth.”
Phil Verster, Managing Director of the ScotRail Alliance, also welcomed the new figures. Mr Verster said: “We are incredibly proud to operate services on the Borders Railway – a route which, as the numbers show, is hugely popular with our customers.
“The extremely positive first six months is a wonderful start, and gives us a solid foundation on which to continue to attract new visitors to and from the Borders. We are committed to ensuring the lasting legacy of the Borders Railway.
“It’s clear that the success of the line has been a catalyst for other communities to champion their own rail links and we are working closely with partners to encourage and support economic growth across Scotland.”
The actual passenger numbers are as follows with the estimate first and actual numbers second.
Tweedbank 18,978 183,918
Galashiels 20,567 104,593
Stow 5,129 24,365
Gorebridge 79,014 39,400
Newtongrange 46,449 50,480
Eskbank 114,568 65,672
Shawfair 54,298 9,398
Brunstane/Newcraighall 865 11,344
Edinburgh Waverley 228,156 205,203
568,023 694,373 +22%
Close analysis of the information released by Transport Scotland, shows many more passengers using the new stations in the Scottish Borders at Tweedbank, Galashiels and Stow than forecast. But although more people used Newtongrange station than expected, the other Midlothian stations at Gorebridge, Eskbank and Shawfair did not do as well as expected.
More passengers than forecast used the existing stations in Edinburgh at Brunstane and Newcraighall, but not as many journeys originated at Edinburgh Waverley as might have been expected.
Nevertheless, the overall picture is much more positive than was forecast officially. And Shawfair station is unique in that it has been built in advance of the commercial and residential development that it will serve. The feeling is that even more passengers will arrive once the planned buildings go up.