Borders Railway extension study running late

A Borders Railway service arriving in Stow.
A Borders Railway service arriving in Stow.

A study looking into the case for extending the Borders Railway is, like almost half the trains on the 30-mile track, running late.

Consultant Jacobs UK’s Borders transport corridors study was due to be published last month, but it has fallen behind schedule and is now not expected until the end of March.

Scottish Government transport minister Humza Yousaf had hoped to have a report from Jacobs UK before the end of 2017, but, like 48.3% of passengers at Tweedbank, according to figures published earlier this month for the preceding year, he is being kept waiting.

Only 51.7% of the 33 daily services arriving at the southernmost end of the Edinburgh-Tweedbank line were on time over the course of that rolling 12-month period, although 88.8% were less than five minutes late, well short of the three-month delay Mr Yousaf faces, according to ScotRail’s latest performance update.

As well as looking into the case for extending the £353m Borders Railway, the study will also outline scope for improvements to the A1, A7 and A68 roads through the Borders.

Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton has hit out at the hold-up, saying: “This is a disappointing delay to an important study.

“The Scottish National Party needs to stop dilly-dallying and get the Borders the answers it needs.

“Campaigners for the Borders Railway, A1, A7 and A68 have been left waiting long enough. It’s time the Scottish Government started to deliver for them.”

Announcing the study back in April, Mr Yousaf said: “In the Scottish Government’s programme for government, a commitment was given to examine the case for an extension of the Borders Railway, along with improvements to the A1, A7 and A68.

“This study will take forward that commitment by considering how we improve accessibility in the Borders, link communities to key markets through strategic transport routes and identify where improvements to transport links are required.

“We want to build on the existing Borders Railway by considering whether it should be extended to Carlisle.

“The study will also look at how we improve access from the Scottish Borders to key markets in to Edinburgh, Carlisle and Newcastle.

“Working with partners in Scottish Borders Council and the South East of Scotland Transport Partnership, Transport Scotland will identify a range of options for improving transport.

“Options could include new rail services, improvements to existing infrastructure and improved public transport provision.”

Extending the line, opened in September 2015, to Hawick, via Melrose, would add about 17 miles to its current 30-mile length, and carrying onto Carlisle, via either Langholm or Newcastleton, recreating the old Waverley Route closed in 1969, would add another 50-plus miles on top of that.