Borders Railway operators admit certain factors can combine to allow some passengers to board trains on the £300M line without tickets.
Several Borders residents who have used the line since it was opened by the Queen at the beginning of September say the carriages, especially on the weekend journeys to Edinburgh, seemed filled with dozens of people claiming to not having paid a fare at the station, but then also not having to pay on the train as there has been no rail staff selling or checking tickets on board.
One man even claimed that on one weekend trip, his wife had estimated that around fifty percent of fellow travellers in her carriage were making the journey for free.
Asked if he was aware of the situation, Scottish Borders Council leader David Parker said it was a problem that route operators, ScotRail, was aware of.
“When the train is very busy and overcrowded it’s difficult for conductors to get to everybody,” Mr Parker told us.
“They are improving this issue and are thinking carefully about it for the future, but because it is a new train service and they are keen to welcome and encourage passengers, they have also been taking a customer-friendly approach, particularly when it is very busy or when there are been delays or disruption. And it is not as high as fifty percent.”
A spokeswoman for ScotRail said the vast majority of its customers do purchase tickets before boarding trains, but that sometimes a combination of factors can result in people boarding trains without tickets.
“Since the opening of the Borders Railway, and in addition to the ticket vending machines already located at stations, on weekends we’ve positioned additional staff at Tweedbank and Waverley to help customers buy their tickets before boarding the train,” she added.
“Early next year we will be making positive changes in order to allow us to better implement our Buy Before You Board policy. This will include having dedicated ‘switch’ teams located across the country to encourage customers to switch to Smart Card travel - something which will save them both time and money.”
Meanwhile, the Borders Railway Prospectus, which highlights the opportunities along the new railway corridor for investors and businesses, was officially launched in Edinburgh last week.
Keith Brown, Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities, unveiled the www.bordersrailwayprospectus.com website and a promotional film to Scottish businesses, politicians, developers, agents, and legal, banking and advisory representatives.