Borders rail: Hour-long commute sparks anger

Work is carried out at the Lothianbridge viaduct. Picture: Gordon Fraser
Work is carried out at the Lothianbridge viaduct. Picture: Gordon Fraser
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A JOURNEY over the full length of the new £350 million Borders Railway line will take as long as an hour during peak periods.

A draft timetable for the service obtained exclusively by the Evening News shows it will take 60 minutes for trains to travel from Waverley to Tweedbank, near Galashiels, during the busiest commuter hours in the morning and evening.

Critics have warned that the journey time could see commuters snub the line and stick to travelling by car.

Network Rail had consistently cited the expected journey time as 55 minutes in the past, but that figure will be the best-case scenario under the proposed timings for the project.

The frequency of the service will be every half hour during the day from Monday to Saturday and every hour at night. Trains will be limited to running once an hour on Sundays.

The 35-mile route, which will include seven new stations, is due to start running in 2015.

Railway campaigners welcomed the proposed earliest departures for services on weekdays, with trains due to leave Edinburgh as early as 5.51am and Tweedbank from 5.25am.

But the length of journey times has been labelled “disappointing”, with Campaign for Borders Rail chairman Simon Walton saying the organisation was “angry” that Transport Scotland had not delivered on the long-promised 55-minute maximum journey time.

He said: “Ever since Transport Scotland published its pre-qualification document for the Borders Railway in December 2009, it has promised that the maximum journey time would be 55 minutes from Tweedbank to Edinburgh. Now it is reneging on that promise, reducing the train’s ability to compete with the car from the central Borders to Edinburgh.”

Rail consultant and author David Spaven said the peak-hour delays on the Borders route would be linked to trains needing to slow dramatically or stop to allow other services to pass.

The draft timetable has been sent to train operator ScotRail, with Edinburgh, Midlothian and the Borders councils to be part of the consultation. A final version is due to be rubber-stamped next month.

Transport Scotland yesterday denied a maximum 55-minute journey time had been promised. A spokesman pointed out the proposed 5.25am service departing Tweedbank would connect to King’s Cross services from Waverley, allowing passengers to reach London before 11am.

And he said the opportunities for charter train promoters would help improve prospects for leisure and tourism growth.