Borders line

It is to Transport Scotland’s credit that it has bravely put the facts about local rail in Scotland before the electorate: generally, it costs too much, and does too little.

It could do better. As was implied by the McNulty report earlier this year, the 25 per cent growth in passenger numbers is no surprise given the subsidy – £4 for every £5 in fares across the UK as a whole, and an eye-watering £15 for every fiver in the farebox in Scotland.

We should be able to achieve better taxpayer value, and it is a shame that the normally prudent Scottish Conservative Party seem to have rubbished the report without thinking about the priorities we need in infrastructure and operating spend.

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There have been many sensible, small-scale projects in the network, described in the September 2011 Industry Plan for Scotland, as producing benefit to cost ratios of three and above.

So why are Scottish ministers persisting with the risky Borders Railway as now planned, predicting a measly and doubtful 1:2 benefit to cost, and that before Network Rail tackles the real physical issues of building the straggling line in an area of low population?

Peter Smaill