Another campaign success for CBR

Just a year after CBR – together with Claudia Beamish MSP – persuaded Transport Minister Keith Brown that the Tweedbank station tracks should be extended to handle 12-coach tourist charter trains, there’s more good news on the campaigning front. Transport Scotland’s recent Draft Invitation to Tender for the ScotRail franchise reveals that CBR’s lobbying for timetable flexibility to allow charters to reach Tweedbank on peak demand day – Saturdays – has been successful. Section 2.6 of the document specifies that:

“The Scottish Ministers consider that it is desirable to allow the operation of charter and tourist services by other operators on this route to promote tourism. The Franchisee will be required to facilitate such operation, and cooperate through alterations to its regular timetabled service, at no additional cost.”

Over many years, CBR (and formerly the Waverley Route Trust) has been arguing that its research demonstrated that some 50% of charter train arrivals at Scottish destinations are on Saturdays – generally in the middle of the day – but that the half-hourly ScotRail train service frequency left no spare route capacity for charters except in the evenings and on Sundays. Now the Borders Railway will be able to welcome trains from across Britain bringing valuable additional visitor spend to the regional economy.

It’s unfortunate that the limitations of Transport Scotland’s infrastructure specification means that the price of properly tapping the charter market is dropping the ScotRail frequency to hourly for a few hours on Saturdays (mostly during the summer) – but at least trains can be operated with double the number of seats at these times.

CBR AGM to call for Hawick extension study

CBR’s latest press release trails the 2013 AGM & public meeting in Hawick on Wednesday 27th November and calls for a full feasibility study of extending the Borders Railway south from Tweedbank. See:

CBR urges councillors to reject single-track Falahill overbridge

In advance of tomorrow’s SBC Planning Committee meeting, Nick Bethune, London Officer of CBR, has urged councillors to ensure that the proposed new road overbridge at Falahill provides sufficent width for future double-tracking of the railway:

“I am writing to you on behalf of the Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR) about Network Rail’s planning application for a revised road and rail arrangement at Falahill, which as a member of the Scottish Borders Council Planning Committee your planning officers will be asking you to approve tomorrow.

“Our message to the Planning Committee is only to approve this application on condition that the proposed bridge structure be redesigned to allow the railway to be double-tracked in the future. The attached letter, which we submitted to SBC as part of the consultation process, sets out our argument in more detail.

“On page 10 of your officers’ report, under the heading “Railway Specification”, the view is expressed that this is outwith the committee’s remit. We strongly disagree. The committee should know that the applicant’s response to the effect that “any future increases in capacity of the line will be met by additional loops, signals and double tracking in areas clear of bridges or other physical constraints” is in fact an empty assurance designed to appease the well-founded concern that the specification of the railway has been cut back in a way that will severely limit its future potential. Because of the policy of designing all new structures on the line to single-track clearances, the passive provision that the applicant’s statement implies has been allowed for elsewhere will not actually be readily available in reality.

“We urge the committee to act in the interests of proper long-term planning, rather than passively accepting arguments that are motivated solely by short-term cost factors.”