Borders Railway plea from council

Thursday February 14th 2019


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Concerns about cancelled trains and delays putting people off using the Borders Railway have been voiced as a report reveals that nearly £30million has been invested in projects along the line.

A report to Midlothian Council revealed that millions had been ploughed into blueprint projects at stations and communities served by the rail service, which was reintroduced in 2015.

However, concerns were raised that all the investment could suffer because rail operations were not living up to expectations.

Councillor Russell Imrie told a meeting of the council on Tuesday that he had campaigned with others for the reintroduction of the line, and the projects within the communities were “absolutely fantastic”, but he pleaded with ScotRail to match their aspiration with services.

Mr Imrie told the meeting: “It is interesting to see despite what is in the report we are still having cancellations on that rail service.

“If we are going to get people to use public transport it has to be reliable, it has to be efficient and it has to get people there on time.

“We cannot afford to have our people that maybe leave their car for the first time ever at their doorstep and go to the rail station finding out that the service has either been cancelled, delayed or is not running at all. That is really, really terrible.

“Please, please, please, get it working properly, get it working efficiently and people will use that rail line and we as a county will benefit.”

Councillor Kenneth Baird, who operates a coffee kiosk at Eskbank Station, said that ScotRail needed to take the expanding rail line “seriously”.

He said: “There are a number of people who commute using the train who have told me that the carriages are just too cramped to warrant the risk of taking a coffee on it for fear of spilling it on yourself and things like that.

“We need the early-morning trains to be six-carriage trains in order to maintain the numbers.

“There is a risk the service will decline as people realise the service is not where it should be.”

The council’s head of communities Ian Johnson told the committee that the blueprint group, which oversees the railway project and has representatives from ScotRail and local authorities on it, hears operational issues when it meets.

He said: “ScotRail are very aware of, and sensitive to, the level of concern raised not just here but in the community about the quality of rail service.

“They tell us they are aiming to ensure they improve that as time goes on. The liaison is strong and the points have been made to the relevant people.”

A report on the rail line revealed that the level of cancellations reduced towards the end of 2018 and a compensation scheme was in place for people affected by delays and cancellations.

It added: “Since opening, ScotRail has been investing in increased capacity on the route. More carriages have been allocated to the route and the number of daily seats provided has increased from just under 9,000 at opening to more than 11,100 – an increase of 23%.

“By the end of 2019, almost all services will be operated by the more modern trains providing 12,600 seats per day, an increase of 40% since September 2015”

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