Success of Borders Railway no flash in pan, reveals report

A train on the Borders Railway at Low Buckholmside, Galashiels.
A train on the Borders Railway at Low Buckholmside, Galashiels.

The initial success of the Borders Railway after its opening in September 2015 was no novelty as the number of passengers it carried last year was up almost a 10th on the year before, new research reveals.

“There are large volumes of users using the service to travel between the Scottish Borders and Midlothian and Edinburgh, with total patronage on the line increasing by 9.5% since year one,” says a report by Peter Brett Associates for Transport Scotland published this week.

“The majority of patronage is towards Edinburgh, with Tweedbank the most frequent origin and Edinburgh Waverley the most frequent destination.

“Since year one, inbound and outbound travel at all the Midlothian stations has increased while the number of people travelling to Galashiels and Tweedbank has fallen slightly, with the latter likely a reflection of the novelty impact of the line wearing off.

“While commuting is the most common journey purpose, there are also a significant number of leisure and tourist users and there is evidence that the line has improved access to opportunities and encouraged people to make additional or new trips which they previously did not make, with approximately 35,900 of the estimated annual single trips recorded via the year two sample falling into this category.”

The report, available for viewing on Transport Scotland’s website, highlights the role played by the £353m railway in attracting people to live, work or visit here.

It found that the 30-mile route has been a major factor in most people’s residential and career choices.

Some 58% of those surveyed who had recently moved house cited the line as being an influence on their decision, as did 52% of those who had changed jobs.

Scottish Government transport minister Humza Yousaf said: “These latest findings demonstrate the sustained, positive and measurable impact that the introduction of the Borders Railway has had on the communities right along the line.

“The report is welcome evidence that the Borders Railway continues to grow both in popularity and benefits to the local economy, not least with the increase in passengers numbers in the second year of service.

“It shows the railway is meeting its objectives by acting as a catalyst for investment while also enabling people to take up new opportunities.

“The success of the Borders line is clear evidence our efforts are helping to build the best railway Scotland has ever had.”

Danny Cusick, chairman of the Borders Railway Blueprint Group, added: “The line has already opened up the region along the route and provided opportunities for jobs and investment, helping to deliver sustainable growth and social benefits for the whole region.

“This research shows that the Borders Railway region is an excellent location to do business, to visit and to live in, and we hope to see continued growth year on year.”

Another report on the railway, looking into the case for extending the Edinburgh-Tweedbank track to Carlisle in England, is due out next month.

Consultant Jacobs UK’s Borders transport corridors study was originally scheduled for completion by the end of last year, but it is now not expected until the end of March.

As well as looking into the case for extending the railway into England, the study will also outline scope for improvements to the A1, A7 and A68 roads through the Borders.

Extending the line to Hawick, via Melrose, would add about 17 miles to its current length, and carrying on to Carlisle, via either Langholm or Newcastleton, recreating the old Waverley Route closed in 1969, would add another 50-plus miles on top of that.

It is rumoured that this study will conclude that extending the track would not be viable, but that claim has not been confirmed by Transport Scotland or Jacobs UK.