Long way from perfection but on right track

This week marks the first birthday of the rebirth of the Borders Railway, the 35-mile line reconnecting the region to Edinburgh.

While the service has seen more passengers through its automatic doors than anyone could have dared to expect before the launch, it is not without its detractors.

Leading the line’s praises, admittedly unsurprisingly, is Leaderdale and Melrose councillor David Parker, leader of Scottish Borders Council, one of the champions of the £294m project.

He said: “The Borders Railway is opening up opportunities to work, invest, live, learn and visit our region.

“One year after it opened, the railway is starting to help transform the Scottish Borders’ economy, from increasing tourism to assisting in the growth of key areas such as the food and drink and creative sectors, and the passenger numbers to date highlight the potential for the area.

“Working with our partners, we are aiming to capitalise on the opportunities presented through the Borders Railway Blueprint programme.

“The programme aims to deliver a range of economic benefits and encourage businesses to take advantage of the many development opportunities available in the region, which have been opened up to a greater audience by the Borders Railway.

“It is important that the economic benefits of the Borders Railway spread across the wider Scottish Borders so that as many people as possible benefit from it, and this is something that Scottish Borders Council will continue to work hard on.”

However, Neil Fox, administrator of the Borders Railway passenger group on Facebook, said all is not rosy.

He said: “Overall, I am delighted to see the trains running again. However, the service levels over the first year have fallen well below most people’s expectations.

“The Borders Railway should have been double track for the entire length. I get the impression that corners have been cut to save money rather than building for the future.”

Mr Fox added: “I would like to use the train for work. However, as I live in Stow, I do not have access to a full timetable.”

“This causes further problems when Scotrail decides to cancel a train or run a train with reduced stops.”

He added that other problems, such as not enough carriages, poor service, especially on late trains from the capital at weekends, poor attitude and customer service levels from some of the guards and an unreliable service are all major talking points on his page.

He said: “Cancellations should be the exception, not the norm.”

A spokeswoman for Scotrail said: “We’re pleased to celebrate the Borders Railway’s first anniversary.

“So many customers are using the service which links the Borders and Midlothian communities with Edinburgh and further afield on the rail network.”

The Campaign for Borders Rail says the first anniversary of the line is an occasion to look to the future and that there is a strong case for extending the line to benefit more communities.

“Official studies into the potential for future extension of rail services to bring direct benefits to even more places should be seen as just the beginning of the next stage of railway development in the Scottish Borders,” said Allan McLean, the retired railway manager chairing the group.

“I appreciate that it will take time to extend the railway.

“In the meantime, there is an opportunity to enhance the existing service to make it more reliable.

“Cancellations and delays to the current trains must not hinder future development. In
fact, recent experience can inform the future so that lessons are learned to maximise the very real benefits that a reliable train service can bring.”