Borders Railway fails to reach expected growth

Passenger numbers on Borders Railway have run out of steam. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Passenger numbers on Borders Railway have run out of steam. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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The initial surge in passengers on the Borders Railway was reversed in the second half of its first year, official figures have shown.

They reveal the 22 per cent more journeys than expected in the new line’s first six months was cancelled out by its first anniversary in September.

The Edinburgh-Tweedbank route was plagued by disruption this summer caused by train conductors’ strikes, trains breaking down and signalling faults.

A total of 1.3 million journeys were made on the line in its first year, which was in line with original projections before it opened.

The news will come as a setback to the Scottish Government, which had predicted the first-year total would be 21 per cent above forecasts – or 1.57m journeys.

The Borders Railway Blueprint partnership, which also includes Scottish Enterprise, Transport Scotland, VisitScotland, ScotRail and local authorities, said in May: “It is estimated that passenger trips will be maintained at 21 per cent over expectations through to the end of the first year of operation.”

But ScotRail Alliance managing director Phil Verster said yesterday: “Projections are just that – assumptions made about how many people are likely to travel at different times of the year.

“We now have a much clearer picture of what to expect in future years and will incorporate these learnings into our business planning and marketing.”

David Spaven, of the Borders Rail Monitor group, said: “The big story here is the shocking failure of rail forecasting.

“All three Borders stations have performed massively better than forecast.

“But three of the four stations in Midlothian have had substantially fewer passengers than expected.”

Meanwhile, ScotRail also announced that two of the busiest trains on the route would be doubled in length from Monday, 12 December, to ease overcrowding.

The 7:58am from Tweedbank to South Gyle and the 4:52pm Edinburgh to Tweedbank will operate with four rather than two carriages. Four daily off-peak trains will be similarly increased in length.