Population too small to sustain the trains

The evidence craved by Lorne Anton for the incipient failure of the Borders Rail project can be found very close to home as we have all been there before.

The previous Borders railway was closed by Beeching whereas those in the Central belt were not, precisely because the Borders does not have the population of the central belt, a fact highlighted by the tourist projections given.

If planning a holiday or honeymoon, the Borders would beat Bathgate as a destination, the former having rolling hills and solitude, the latter being blessed with smoking mills and urban blight.

The central belt population ensures a high load factor on any transport system, whereas the sparse Borders ensures the reverse.

A low load factor means ever-increasing fares, a frustrated and truculant, strike-prone workforce, a service devoid of attraction. The business case can be dismissed as we all know that any group of paid professionals can come up with and justify any result which the master requires.

My previous wager on rail fares, carried in these columns and based on private car costs, has attracted no takers and there is no word from on high of train passes for the elderly as are provided for the bus.

The system, if built will not make any money and will have to be closed, as previously.

The provision of safety, an insatiably increasing cost, is a centralised liability on the railway operator, carrying draconian, sometimes personal penalties, whereas with the car it is distributed over all drivers.

I help to run a small business in Musselburgh, recently blessed with a railway station, and I have to say that we have hardly noticed. The need in the borders is for vibrant new business and for that we need a hugely improved and attractive road system.

I notice that the £500,000 tourist income listed would pay for the railway in about a thousand years (at no interest) whereas at any interest rate above the 0.1 per cent (which banks currently give the saver) we would be in the Forth Bridge situation prior to the application of modern paint.

It may not have escaped the notice of our lords and masters in Edinburgh that the £300million earmarked for the railway fits rather nicely into the deficit of the trams and if the projected railway cost were to rise (surely not) one might be tempted.

This misbegotten project joins the benighted ranks of the parliament, the trams and the South Sea Bubble and in these straitened times should be cancelled forthwith.

Robin Cross