ScotRail pledge of extra stops on Borders Railway hits the buffers

A promise to have more Borders Railway trains stopping at Stow by the end of this year is way off track and now looks unlikely to be delivered for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, 24th December 2019, 9:04 am
A Borders Railway train at Stow's station.

ScotRail managing director Alex Hynes vowed in April there would be more seats and stops added to the Tweedbank-to-Edinburgh line “within months, not years”, prompting hopes of a change within this month’s new timetable.

Despite those assurances, though, Stow remains the only station on the £353m line with only off-peak status, meaning that just half of the trains that pass through it stop there.

A ScotRail spokesman told us this week that the firm had drafted a revised timetable to include half-hourly services at Stow, but found that it couldn’t go ahead with it due to the detrimental impact it would have on performance across the network.

John Lamont, Jenny Marr, Kirsten Campbell, Ian Davidson and Calum Kerr at BBC Scotland's general election hustings at the Heart of Hawick.

“We try to deliver improvements in every timetable change, but this can’t be at the detriment of performance, which customers value highly,” he said.

“There’s no doubt that Stow has been a major success on the Borders Railway, and we’re looking at ways of better serving Stow in the future.”

He added that the firm still wants to provide the village with a peak service and is looking at “a number of projects” to make this happen, but does not have a timescale for completion.

ScotRail had pinned its hopes on the introduction of new three-carriage Class 170 trains on the 30-mile route this summer for improving reliability, but cancellations have continued to cause problems for passengers in recent months.

It has, however, delivered on a promise of more seats.

There are now an extra 1,500 seats each weekday, created by cutting the number of two-carriage weekday trains from 13 to seven and the upgrading of two morning trains to a six-carriage service.

Borders MP John Lamont still wants to see the firm’s promise to Stow upheld, though.

“The extra carriages at peak times will be especially welcome in light of some of the overcrowding horror stories we have heard in the past,” he said.

“This was one of the biggest issues raised at my public meeting in April with senior ScotRail executives.

“However, it is disappointing that ScotRail has not yet followed through on the promise that Stow will be upgraded to have a half-hourly service to match other stations on the route.

“We are facing a climate emergency and encouraging people to take cars off the road is an important part of tackling this.

“However, in reality, people in Stow and the surrounding area will feel that they still will have more flexibility when heading to Edinburgh when they take the car.

“ScotRail must live up to its promises when the next timetable change occurs.”