Borders Railway celebrates third anniversary by topping 4m passengers

A total of 4 million journeys have been made on the Borders Railway since it opened three years ago today, the ScotRail Alliance has announced.

Thursday, 6th September 2018, 11:00 am
Updated Thursday, 6th September 2018, 3:15 pm
Passengers board an Edinburgh-bound train at Newtongrange station in Midlothian in 2016. Picture: Ian Rutherforrd

The new 30-mile Edinburgh-Tweedbank route carried 1.45 million passengers over the past year, 5.8 per cent up on the previous 12 months.

That follows 1.3m in the first year and 1.37m in the second year - up 5.3 per cent.

However, the first-year total masked the fact that its initial runaway success, with 22 per cent more journeys than expected, was cancelled out by the end of that year.

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It ended that year only hitting its target, when previous line openings, such as to Alloa, far exceeded theirs.

Predictions over station popularity have also been confounded.

Those in the Borders - Stow, Galashiels and Tweedbank - proved far busier than expected in the first year, while Midlothian stations like Shawfair, Eskbank and Gorebridge attracted many fewer passengers than forecast.

The line was opened late and cost £350 million, hugely more than earlier estimates.

Its performance has been hampered by cuts to the passing loops which enable trains to go past each other on the mainly single-track route, and ScotRail's least reliable trains being used on the line.

BACKGROUND: Borders Railway fails to meet expected first-year growthScotRail Alliance managing director Alex Hynes said today: “The Borders Railway continues to provide a strong and reliable transport connection, benefiting employment, leisure, tourism, and business.

“We are committed to building the best railway Scotland has ever had and this line is helping us to deliver that, transforming the way people across Midlothian and the Borders travel.

“Reaching the milestone figure of 4 million passenger journeys demonstrates the success of what was an ambitious project, and I look forward to its continued growth.”

Transport secretary Michael Matheson said: “The Borders Railway has been a phenomenal success as it continues to grow in both popularity and bringing benefits to the local economy.

"The increase in passenger numbers since it opened three years ago demonstrates it is acting as a catalyst for investment while opening up employment, leisure and education opportunities for communities along its length.

“We continue to look at ways to develop the potential of the line, and the recommendations from the Borders Transport Corridors Study will, in turn, feed into the on-going Strategic Transport Projects Review.”

A final report will be published "in early autumn".

Options could include extending the line south to Carlisle or east towards Berwick-Upon-Tweed.