Huge support for Borders rail service

PASSENGER numbers on a planned train service between Edinburgh and the Borders could be much higher than those forecast in a Scottish executive study, rail campaigners have claimed.

The first detailed research among potential rail users in the Borders since the original Waverley Line closed in 1969 has shown 87 per cent of those surveyed in the Stow and Lauder area would travel by train if a station was developed in Stow itself.

Results from the survey commissioned by the Campaign for Borders Rail indicate earlier work based on government passenger-use models may have been extremely conservative.

A feasibility study for the executive two years ago concluded there was no case for a station at Stow if the line between the city and Galashiels were to be reinstated. Research indicated there would be an average six passengers per day boarding trains in Stow yielding just 36 in revenue for the rail operators.

But according to the latest survey returns from 650 people or 75 per cent of the local population, more than 100 individuals would commute by rail, and 320 more would use the trains for shopping, visiting relatives and entertainment.

The conclusions from the Stow study by Transport Research & Information Network suggests the number of passengers buying tickets on the 35-mile line between Edinburgh and Galashiels could be considerably higher than daily totals ranging from 2,800 to 3,500 in the government report.

Teams of consultants were recently appointed by the Waverley Railway Partnership to take forward plans for the restoration of the line, which will cost at least 75 million. A 1.85 million contribution has been made available by the executive to allow more studies leading to a parliamentary order, which would be necessary to get the scheme up and running.

Bill Jamieson, spokesman for the Campaign for Borders Rail, said: “Our survey represents a massive vote in favour of a railway station at Stow.

“We have been astonished at the level of support for a local station, particularly from the large number of motorists who say they would switch to using the train for journeys into Edinburgh.”

Mr Jamieson, who lives in Stow, admitted very few locals used the station prior to its closure in the 1960s, but he claimed far fewer people travelled to work in Edinburgh in those days and the train times were not suitable for commuting to Galashiels.

He said the government model for assessing passenger demand was usually accurate in the case of larger centres of population. But there was plenty of evidence to show many more people than expected used the train where lines were reinstated. The survey has also shown a lot of people regard the train as safer, more efficient and more enjoyable, and appreciate the value of avoiding parking problems in Edinburgh.

“A significant number are fearful of the driving conditions on the A7 and other parts of the route into Edinburgh,” the study report states.

More than half the households surveyed own two or more cars, and a significant number anticipate they would be able to get rid of at least one of their vehicles if Stow had a rail service.