The Borders Railway has welcomed its 500,000 passenger in just over four months of service.
Sarah Eno and Andy Swales from Selkirk became passenger number 500,000 and 500,001, respectively, today (Thursday) and were joined on the platform of Waverley Station in Edinburgh by are joined by Transport Minister Derek Mackay and ScotRail Alliance Managing Director Phil Verster.
This puts the popular service over 20% ahead of forecast, with passenger numbers expected to continue to exceed expectations throughout the rest of the year. The £353 million railway, which reopened in September, 2015, connects the Borders and Midlothian with the Scottish rail network.
Mr Mackay celebrated the landmark by awarding Sarah Eno with a season ticket and Scottish Borders Council Leader, Councillor David Parker:
commented: “For over half a million passengers to use the Borders Railway in less than five months is an incredible achievement.
“With journey numbers consistently over 20,000 per week, the railway is continuing to be well used for work and recreation by Borderers, as well as those coming from the rest of Scotland, the UK and overseas to visit our region.
“I am sure that with the Borders Railway Blueprint programme now underway, we shall see further benefits through the creation of new jobs, stimulation of growth in our businesses and investment in our area.”
Mr Verster added: “We are less than five months into delivering the new Borders services and it’s clear that the Borders Railway is a huge success story for Scotland and for the rail industry. We had a sense in September that Borders was going to be popular but no-one expected us to reach 500,000 passengers so quickly.
“We had a huge surge of interest during September and October and, since then, passenger numbers have stabilised. Demand is still high – consistently over 20,000 journeys per week – but we are in a better position now to understand our peaks and troughs and when we need to add extra carriages to our services.
“This year, our focus is on further establishing the service and helping the communities of Midlothian and the Scottish Borders to make the most of this huge economic opportunity. We expect to see a big uplift in tourists during Easter and summer and during the big events such as the Melrose 7s, the Borders book festival and the Common Ridings. We look forward to welcoming everyone on board.”
Mr Mackay added: “The popularity of the Borders Railway is evident in the groundswell of interest there has been since the opening and by the continuing popularity of the services as we reach half a million passengers well ahead of schedule.
“In addition to strong passenger demand, local businesses are reporting increased footfall and extended trading hours since September, which is testament to the positive differences that the £353 million investment is making to the economy of the local area.”
Exact figures between September 6 and Saturday, January 23 2016 were 537,327. The Transport Scotland Business Case for Borders Railway, published in November 2012, predicted first year annual return passenger numbers of 647,136.