ScotRail is to run steam trains on the Borders Railway on Sundays in August and September, the train operator confirmed today.
The move, which will seek to capitalise on the vast visitor influx during the Edinburgh Festival, comes a month after The Scotsman’s revealed the plans.
Thousands of people also lined the route in May to see the steam locomotive Flying Scotsman make a special trip as part of its historic return to Scotland after a major refit.
The locomotive 46100 Royal Scot will haul the excursions in August and 60009 Union of South Africa - which operated last autumn’s trips on the line - will run the trains in September.
Return tickets between Edinburgh and Tweedbank are £55, or £130 for “premier dining”, or £150 for first class.
Passengers will travel on vintage carriages owned by the Bo’ness-based Scottish Railway Preservation Society.
The trips have been confined to Sundays - between 7 August and 25 September - to avoid the need to cancel regular ScotRail services because the line is largely single track. Fewer trains run on Sundays.
Last year’s sell-out trips included steam trains also running on Thursdays, which disrupted other passengers.
Rail consultant David Spaven, who wrote Waverley Route - The battle for the Borders Railway, welcomed the plans but said it was a shame such trains could not operate on Saturdays.
He said: “This is welcome news, and further vindication of the long and eventually successful efforts by rail campaigners to persuade the Scottish Government to extend the platforms at Tweedbank to accommodate steam and diesel charter trains.
“Focussing the steam service on Sundays is sensible, as this avoids the cancellation of regular ScotRail services, which we saw with weekday steam excursions last year.
“Sadly, the single-track railway was designed with no spare capacity other than on Sundays, when ScotRail services are just hourly, and this means the peak day of the week for charter trains nationally – Saturdays – has been lost to the Borders Railway, with associated loss of potential visitor expenditure to the regional economy.”
ScotRail commercial director Cathy Craig said: “This is a fabulous opportunity to showcase the line, and in such a romantic style.
“I look forward to seeing how successful these trips will be.”
Scottish Borders Council leader David Parker said: “The trips were extremely successful last year, with thousands of people visiting the Borders thanks to the journeys.”