Call for Borders Railway extension as it hits half a million journeys

Campaigners who successfully managed to get the Borders Railway built after years of pressure are now calling for its length to be tripled, after it carried 500,000 passengers during its first four months of operation.

The 30-mile line from Edinburgh to Tweedbank opened in September with a goal of carrying 650,000 passengers in its first year, but it celebrated passing 500,000 on 28 January when Sarah Eno and David Swales from Selkirk were told they were the milestone passengers.

The £294m project, the longest new domestic railway built in the UK for over a century, was brought about by grassroots group Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR), who now hope to see the line extended 60 miles further south to Carlisle.

CBR spokesman Simon Walton told RTM: “The Borders Railway has carried its 500,000th passenger and the campaign are delighted to see so many people using it.

“The campaign did expect the railway to be successful. The fact that it has carried so many passengers doesn’t come as a surprise for us.

“Our ultimate goal is to see the line built the rest of the way.”

Walton called for a feasibility study to look into extending the line, saying that he believed it was “only a matter of time” before plans to expand it were launched.

CBR was launched at a Burns Night supper in Melrose station restaurant in 1999.

It presented a 17,000 signature petition to the Scottish Parliament Public Petitions Committee and gave evidence to the Petitions Committee and the Waverley Railway Bill Committee. Its campaigning led to the Waverley Railway (Scotland) Act being passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2006.

However, the project initially ran into difficulties. Network Rail had to take it over after several private consortia dropped out, and it was criticised for being delayed and over-budget.

But BAM Nuttall secured a £220m contract to build the railway in December 2012 and the railway was opened in September 2015 by the Queen, on the day she became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.

Derek Mackay MSP, minister for transport and the islands in the Scottish government, told the Scottish Herald: “We knew it would be a success and a wise investment but it's even more popular than we thought.

“I think it's been vindicated and is making a difference. Rail requires huge infrastructure support, and it has that.

“Rail in Scotland is very popular at the moment. This service works because it is reconnecting communities between Edinburgh, Midlothian and the Borders and is creating economic opportunities as well as a commuter link.”


Huguenot   04/02/2016 at 20:47

I doubt if there will ever be a business case to reopen all the way to Carlisle. Let's get as far as Hawick first, serving Melrose and St Boswells on the way (and an extra station at the Borders General Hospital?) A more urgent project would be to utilise the existing double track between Portobello Junction and Brunstane or Newcraighall by installing an additional crossover. At present, a Borders-bound train can block the main line waiting for a late-running Edinburgh service off the Branch because only one track is used in both directions. Also, will Scotrail please do their homework and anticipate when the Borders Railway is going to be busy (e.g. in school holidays) and lengthen the trains accordingly. We have had overcrowding on too many days already.

Andrew Gwilt   05/02/2016 at 00:49

If the extension to Carlisle is to start then after it has been completed with new double tracks, speed restrictions (100mph maximum speed) and new signalling then the new line could be renamed as the Waverley Line or to keep it as Borders Line between Carlisle and Edinburgh Waverley.

Chris M   05/02/2016 at 01:59

Andrew, you clearly know little about the Waverley route - scope for 100mph running would be miniscule due to the numerous curves. Much of it was in fact 60mph limited. An extension on to Hawick is a no-brainer, but south of there to Carlisle is not. Population levels beyond Hawick are very low and the infrastructure limitations rule out freight paths during normal operations - and of course the route via Beattock will always be much quicker to Carlisle.

Leonard Marsden   05/02/2016 at 09:23

we need another route to edinburgh just look at the disruption one damaged viaduct has caused to the west coast main line speed is not that important its the reliability of the service that matters. i have been on the new railway and am dissapointed that it has not been double tracked and feel this is very short sighted for future aspirations

Nonsuchmike   05/02/2016 at 13:16

The four above are so right. There must be doubling at least in part for the service to be increased/improved daily as well as during peak and holiday periods with longer trains too. Extension to Hawick is a must and needs action asap. The tight curves previously on this line to Carlisle need re-thinking/re-engineering to more gentle curves, perhaps with more cuttings/tunnels so that there can be freight running at least at night. It goes without saying that there must be dualling at least in part from the outset, showing that lessons have been learned from the Borders line build completed last year.

Vulgar Fraction   05/02/2016 at 14:52

Carlisle can be a goal, but it has to be a pragmatic one, and a great deal of preparatory work will have to be done. Not least in establishing a different set of rules for analysing its business case, because diversionary resilience is not presently one for creating value.

Jerry Alderson   05/02/2016 at 15:21

Whilst I am very supportive of the Borders Railway reopening (I will be travelling on the linein June to attend a Railfuture national conference at Newtongrange) there needs to be a 'reality check'. The construction cost £294m. That did not include legal fees and land purchase, which pushed it to around £360m at 2012 prices. So, the NPV if building it today would be about £400m. The BCR for the scheme was very low - about 0.5:1. Obviously this was because the patronage prediction was too pessimistic (as is often the case), and sadly the low BCR led to the amount of double track reducing from 16 to 9.5 miles. That has made timetabling a longer route more difficult, and it might be necessary to double some track (or add a passing loop) if the line is extended. Even with the much higher patronage (500k rather than 300k in 4.5 months - 67% higher than expected) the BCR would still have been less than 1. Because costs go up as more passengers are carried it might need patronage to be 110% above expected to make a BCR of 1:1. In England the DfT requires at least 1.5:1 to go ahead with a scheme, but fortunately Scotland doesn't.

Pedr   05/02/2016 at 16:52

How many route miles of new track are there? And please, what does BCR mean?

Rupert Le Bere   05/02/2016 at 18:19

Weather related disruption this past winter requires Government to take a macro view of the future rail network throughout the country. Any assessment of the value of extending the Border line to Carlisle, or any other proposed THROUGH route for that matter, (eg avoiding Dawlish) must take into account the cost of temporary loss of existing rail routes due to weather or other unforseen causes. The assessment must not be judged just on the local benefits. Such an approach would not necessarily help the justification for extending the Borders line to Hawick, but it would certainly impact on the proposal for extending through to Carlisle

James Miller   05/02/2016 at 22:15

I think Network Rail feel that the line will be extended to Carlisle, as they have recently announced plans to revamp Carlisle station. I also think that Network Rail and Bombardier are going to launch some IPEMU routes in the near future and some routes out of Carlisle would be ideal for these battery-electric trains. I think the area on both sides of the Border is going to see a lot of rail development

Eamonn   08/10/2016 at 09:12

Rather than waste billions of pounds on HS2 or HS3 I'd rather money was spent on re establishing some of the links that were hastily cut during the Beeching era. To be honest, the amount already spent on HS2 would have paid for this all the way to Carlisle.

M. Mcginty   01/08/2017 at 12:12

In view of the astounding success of the partial reopening common sense dictates that a complete reopening will be even more successful. The world has moved on since the '60s and there are reasons for a finalised rail-link now that weren't evident then, especially in the freight sector.

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