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26 June 2017

How do we replicate the success of the Borders Railway?

Regular users of the Borders Railway between Tweedbank and Edinburgh probably don’t need a 70 page report to know that the re-opened transport link has been a huge success. 

Borders Railway - Transport Scotland InfographicBut Transport Scotland’s June report – complete with whizz-bang graphics – really demonstrates how transformational this project has been. 

Passenger numbers are higher than expected. Tourists love it. Borders folk are ditching their cars and the bus in favour of rail. Huge numbers of people are considering the line when moving house and job. 

So what should you know about the success of the rail link?

  • Campaigning works. The re-opening of this line came about as a result of grassroots campaigning – something the Transport Minister Keith Brown pointed out at the line’s opening ceremony. This is great encouragement for those in Fife campaigning for the Levenmouth rail link.
  • The line boosts local events. The line is a gift for local events – massively boosting visitor numbers. Scotrail put on extra services and extra carriages for the Melrose Sevens this year and they were packed, I was there. The line is also encouraging new events – such as an international music and arts festival – in Stow (population 700!).
  • It isn’t just for commuters. People use the line for local journeys. Borders folk are travelling between Stow, Gala and Tweedbank for shopping and eating out, great for local businesses. Edinburgh and East Lothian locals are making good use of the new link into the city centre from the likes of Brunstane and Newcraighall.
  • People travel in both directions. Traders in Melrose initially reported seeing many new faces thanks to the line but latterly reported many locals had discovered shopping in Edinburgh at the weekends.

And what should we do next? Borders Railway Steam Train

  • Get more carriages. Trains on the Borders Railway desperately need more than two carriages.
  • Extend the line to Carlisle. The Scottish Government is producing a feasibility study looking at extending the line through Hawick to Carlisle. But we’re in little doubt the economic benefits would be huge. 

One difficult question will be the route – should it be through Newcastleton or through Langholm? The simmering rivalry between these towns has raged since the mid-19th century so I’ll steer well clear.

 

Gordon Henderson is FSB’s Senior Development Manager for the East of Scotland 

Lobbying & Campaigning from FSB

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