Media alert on railway infrastructure constraints

Just two days after the announcement of a major tourism initiative for the Borders Railway, The Scotsman has revealed to readers that the only way tourist charter trains can be accommodated on the single-track railway will be to reduce the half-hourly daytime frequency of ScotRail services. Much to the frustration of CBR, from as far back as the original Scott Wilson feasibility study in 2000, the Borders Railway infrastructure has been designed to provide capacity for half-hourly ScotRail trains, but with no paths for any other services, except in the evenings and on Sundays, when ScotRail frequency will be reduced to hourly. Rail author and CBR member David Spaven is quoted in the Scotsman story:

“Reducing the ScotRail train frequency to hourly in the middle of the day on Saturdays to accommodate tourist charter trains is not ideal, but the hourly ScotRail trains can be lengthened to cater for the extra demand.

“It’s very unfortunate the railway promoters and the political establishment ignored rail campaigners when they were pointing out these infrastructure constraints on tourist potential more than ten years ago. They were warned, but chose to ignore well-informed advice.”

CBR welcomes rail tourism initiative, but…

CBR has welcomed the 20th August Scottish Government announcement of a major push to develop tourist potential on the Borders Railway. Announcing that ScotRail services will begin operations on 6th September 2015, First Minister Alex Salmond also unveiled plans for a “steam train experience” on the line, followed by a “significant expansion” when a visitor centre for the Great Tapestry of Scotland opens beside Tweedbank station.

A feasibility study will look at how the area can benefit from the railway, and other measures announced to help boost the tourism potential of the new railway include lengthening of the platform at Gala to accommodate charters and a new footpath direct from Newtongrange Station to the Scottish Mining Museum. CBR Chair, Simon Walton, was quoted in The Scotsman (and other media outlets):

‘Campaign for Borders Rail chairman Simon Walton said: “It’s gratifying so many recommendations made by the campaign are being actively discussed, although I would have hoped for some greater acknowledgement of our efforts, and recourse to our body of expertise.”’

Simon’s comment refers in part of course to the fact that if it had not been for lobbying by CBR and latterly Claudia Beamish MSP, the platform tracks at Tweedbank station would have been too short to accommodate commercially-viable charters – and the First Minister would now be cursing his officials for not understanding this vital market for the railway!