Abellio, the Dutch passenger transport giant which will run the Scotrail franchise for at least the next seven years, has announced plans to run a “travelling classroom” on the Borders Railway.
“We want to engage with young people in the Borders, capture their imagination and foster in them the sense that it is their railway and they should respect it,” said the firm’s communications director Mike Connelly.
An occasional travelling classroom was one of a range of initiatives revealed to councillors last week by a delegation from Abellio Scotrail, which took over the franchise on April 1.
Mike Kean, the company’s rail development director, said selling the Borders nationally and internationally as a destination would be a key to the commercial success of the line, which opens in September.
“It will be the newest and arguably one of the most spectacular of five routes which we have designated The Great Scenic Railway Journeys of Scotland and which, from next month, we will be promoting as such across the world,” said Mr Kean.
“We will be stressing that people visiting the great city of Edinburgh can enjoy a day in the most stunning countryside and return to the city on the same day.
“The steam experience, with steam trains running for the first six weeks after the line opens and every year thereafter, will also be a huge promotional tool in Japan and the USA.
“Uniquely, the Borders railway will be both a commuter service and a tourism route, which is not easy to achieve at the same time, but we are totally committed to make a success of both.
“We have appointed our own special economic development officer to ensure that, while we are seeking tourists, we are also encouraging people to live and work in the Borders and, naturally, to take the train.”
He said his firm planned to adapt trains on the route to ensure most passengers had a window seat.
Special “ambassadors” would be trained to offer passengers information on places of interest, and cultural and arts events would be organised at stations where bikes will be available for hire at £3.80 per day.
Mr Kean said the firm was negotiating with bus operators to introduce integrated tickets.
This would allow, for example, a passenger in Hawick to purchase a single ticket to any destination in Scotland served by a bus or train route.
Council leader David Parker commented: “These are exciting times: not only do we have a new and ambitious franchise holder, we have a company with a huge vested interested in marketing this region as never before.”