Borders Railway service ‘miserable’, campaigners say

Borders Railway. Picture: Lesley Martin
Borders Railway. Picture: Lesley Martin
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Passengers have suffered a “miserable” service on the new Borders Railway, with more than two in three trains arriving late, campaigners have complained.

Cancellations have added to the disruption, with seven on one day last week, all because of faulty trains.

The latest bad news for the line between Edinburgh and Tweedbank, between Galashiels and Melrose, comes after anger at overcrowded trains when it opened in September.

Supporters of the route blamed the poor punctuality on ScotRail using its least reliable trains, and cutbacks in the length of double track, hampering trains passing each other during disruption.

Only 32.7 per cent of trains arrived at Tweedbank within one minute of time between October 18 and November 14, the latest ScotRail figures show.

That is even worse than the 33.1 per cent figure for the previous month. Also, some 79-83 per cent of services arrived within five minutes of schedule compared to ScotRail’s 92.9 per cent target.

Rail consultant David Spaven said: “This is a miserable service record. Day-to-day performance has varied widely – particularly in terms of cancellations and trains missing out stops in order to catch up time.

“Overall, this is not an acceptable quality of service – the timetable is just too vulnerable to meltdown when things start going wrong.”

Mr Spaven, author of Waverley Route – The Battle For The Borders Railway, said: “Transport Scotland were warned years ago by rail industry insiders and railway campaigners that cutting back on the double track would be a foolish economy, and so it has proved.

“Sadly, significant infrastructure upgrades to the railway are not now achievable in the short-term – but Transport Scotland should at the very least look at hiring in better-performing trains.”

Allan McLean, chairman of the Campaign for Borders Rail, said: “The Borders Railway has been a success to judge by the high numbers of passengers, but it is disappointing cancellations and delays have marred performance on some days.”

A spokeswoman for the ScotRail Alliance, which includes track owner Network Rail, said: “Since the introduction of the Borders Railway, we have seen an increase of 4.8 per cent in our public performance measure 28-day ‘moving average’ [percentage of trains arriving within five minutes of time]. Since November 5, that has risen to 6.8 per cent.”