Users’ group suggested as way forward for Borders Railway

A Borders Railway train at Eskbank.
A Borders Railway train at Eskbank.

Campaigners believe the creation of a passengers’ group might help yield the breakthrough needed to tackle unreliability and overcrowding on the Borders Railway.

Jam-packed trains and cancellations have been issues for travellers on the Edinburgh-Tweedbank line since its opening in September 2015 and ScotRail has faced repeated demands for improvements over the last three years.

Services in December were particularly hard hit, prompting calls for action from Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton.

Those calls are being backed by the Campaign for Borders Rail, and it is now suggesting the formation of a users’ group as a potential way forward.

Committee member Robert Drysdale said: “The run-up to Christmas saw those problems reaching an acute level, with passengers being unable to board packed trains – hardly a good way of encouraging rail travel in Midlothian and the Borders.

“Some peak-hour services were running with only two carriages, totally inadequate for the volume of commuters using the service, while others were cancelled altogether.

“These problems were experienced not just on the Borders Railway but across central Scotland.

“The problems lessened after Christmas, but short trains and cancellations were still being experienced by long-suffering passengers.

“ScotRail has accepted that standards have been well below what is required but have explained that the problems were due to a combination of circumstances, in particular the late delivery of new and refurbished trains and delays in driver training.

“Overcrowding and cancelled trains on the Borders Railway are not new features of the service, and right from the start of the service in September 2015, we have been pressing for better and longer trains on the line.

“While we accept that some of the recent difficulties have not been of ScotRail’s making, we believe that more could be done to ensure that all peak-hour trains are formed with at least three carriages, and ideally four to six carriages.”

Campaign members are to meet ScotRail Alliance managing director Alex Hynes next month to discuss ongoing issues afflicting the 30-mile line.

They also intend to state the case for the creation of a users’ group as a possible way ahead.

“It is clear that formation of a users’ group of regular passengers would be a big step forward,” added Mr Drysdale.

“Such a group, with members who are all travelling on the line frequently, would be in a strong position to monitor train capacity and operational problems and take up these issues with ScotRail, assisted where appropriate by the Campaign for Borders Rail.

“It is to be hoped that such an initiative will emerge as a result of the recent difficulties on the line.”

A ScotRail spokesman said: “We know some of our customers in the Borders have been frustrated by the service they have received from us in recent months.

“Our performance hasn’t been good enough – we understand that – but things are improving.

“We know that one of the biggest concerns for our customers is busy trains, and we do all that we can to meet increasing demand.

“Everyone at the ScotRail Alliance is working flat out to deliver the level of service our customers expect and deserve.”