There are so many holes in the three anti-Borders railway letters printed in last week’s Southern that it is quite difficult to know where to start.
It is interesting to note that the leader of the Borders Party accuses the Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR) of invective – I suggest he re-reads the three letters. If you cannot stand the heat you should not go on to the footplate.
Two of your correspondents say there is no support for the project and mention the public meeting where a vote came out against the railway. They fail to mention that the anti–rail Borders Party stood candidates in most wards at the last local government elections and returned a paltry two councillors. That is a true measure of public opinion, not one public meeting.
Mention is then made of the fact that so many of our elected representatives support the reopening. Why is that? Are we really to believe that the font of all knowledge exists in the Borders Party and all our elected representatives are ill-informed and not aware of the facts? Is that really what they are saying ?
Two of the letters mention freight and passenger charter traffic. A great deal of research has been completed by CBR and the Waverley Route Trust on freight and charters and this research is now with the relevant authorities for their consideration.
The pre-qualification document for the contract states that due consideration should be given to the potential for both freight and charters, and a great deal of interest has been shown by charter train operators, given the route’s scenic attractions and the visitor attractions in the Borders. It has been estimated, using experience from charter companies and local authorities elsewhere, that the Borders economy could benefit to the tune of £500,000 a year from charter traffic. Possible freight flows have also been identified and suggestions made of possible infrastructure changes to allow that traffic.
It seems to have completely escaped the anti-rail writers’ that the contract for the reopening is a design, build, finance and maintain contract. They should note the word design. The design is not yet finalised and those who support its construction are actively supporting the maximum potential use, by all modes of traffic, of the reopened railway.
To turn to your East Gordon correspondent.
“Imaginative initiatives” to promote the route may not be necessary if the route is well used, but they do nevertheless make sound business sense to maximise usage.
A family from Duns would not be likely to go to Galashiels to get the train to Edinburgh, but they may well go to Berwick or a reopened Reston station.
How can a 10 or 12-carriage charter train run on the Borders line? Because more than 50 per cent of the line is now likely to be double track and research has been completed as to what is required to fit charters into the proposed timetable.
The anti-rail correspondents are always quoting cost to the taxpayer, but they never tell us why Borders taxpayers, currently living in one of the largest areas in the UK without connection to the national rail network, should continue to pay towards that network without access.
Consistently, across all reopenings in Scotland, usage on reopened lines has greatly outstripped predicted business case usage.
Speaking at last year’s CBR AGM about the reopening of the Stirling-Alloa line, Jaquie McGuire, former lead officer for Clackmannanshire Regional Council, said the business case was based on 155,000 annual journeys, but the actual use is just short of 400,000. The reopening has brought increased economic growth and inward investment, improved community pride and confidence, created social benefits in education and employment, promoted regeneration, reduced congestion and emissions, and promoted inclusion. This practical, documented experience would clearly benefit the Borders.
Those who oppose the reopening have consistently failed to produce any evidence whatsoever that the reopened Borders railway will be anything other than a success. In comparison, CBR can quote a large number of highly successful reopenings across the UK which can be seen on the CBR website.
Can I suggest that your anti-Borders rail letter writers go to Alloa and tell the good people there that they should not have got their railway and see what response they get?
(chair, Campaign for Borders Rail)