Signals still unclear on charter trains

BOSSES at Transport Scotland have said charter trains will be able to run on the Edinburgh to Tweedbank rail line, writes Bob Burgess.

And they have also given assurances there are no cost-cutting plans to reduce the size of the passing loops on the line.

Fears had been expressed by route supporters – the Campaign for Borders Rail – that the loops might be shortened, leading to longer journey times.

The group’s chairman Lorne Anton wrote to Transport Minister Keith Brown and told him: “Longer train journey times will reduce patronage and deter a modal shift by motorists from car to train. The campaign is seriously concerned that the rail project will not be allowed to realise its full economic, social and environmental potential.”

A spokesman for Transport Scotland told TheSouthern: “These claims are inaccurate. Bringing benefits for local communities and businesses in Midlothian and the Borders remains the key consideration in our work with Network Rail towards delivery of this project.

“As we progress the detailed design our focus continues to be on journey time efficiency.”

Mr Anton also told the minister they were worried that the terminus at Tweedbank would not be capable of handling full-length tourist charter trains – resulting in a loss of economic benefits to the Borders and Midlothian.

Transport Scotland told us: “Investigations undertaken during the Parliamentary process indicated that scheduled passenger services were the only viable option at that time. However, with the use of additional stewarding procedures, it would be possible to run charter trains to Tweedbank, without any additional costs or delay to the project.”

Bur Mr Anton told us he still believed there would be problems with charter trains and that extra stewarding was not seen by charter companies as the answer to their problems.