South Scotland

Delays hit Borders Railway's first birthday

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Media captionThe Borders Railway has surpassed expectations

Signalling problems caused delays and cancellations on the Borders Railway on the day it reached the first anniversary of its opening.

ScotRail said disruption on the route between Tweedbank and Edinburgh lasted until about 19:00.

A train shuttle service was running between Newcraighall and Tweedbank with a bus replacement between Newcraighall and Edinburgh.

The first services ran on the new route on 6 September 2015.

It has exceeded forecast usage figures of 650,000 passengers a year within its first six months.

Golden tickets

However, there have been some problems with overcrowding and cancellations which ScotRail has pledged to tackle.

Trains returned to the Scottish Borders after an absence of 46 years in September last year.

Hundreds of people queued up at Tweedbank station on a Sunday morning in order to be the first passengers on board.

Passengers issued with special golden tickets had been able to travel the route the day before while the Queen carried out the official opening on 9 September, the day she became Britain's longest-serving monarch.

Analysis: Giancarlo Rinaldi, BBC news website South of Scotland reporter

Image copyright Dougie Johnston
Image caption The reopened line has welcomed a number of classic steam trains

There have been ups and downs as could only be expected in the first 12 months of such a major transport project.

The royal seal of approval and enormous popularity with passengers ensured a genuine buzz about the opening of the Borders Railway.

Steam train trips along the line have also been a hit.

The railway has even been credited with inspiring others across Scotland to seek the reopening of their rail routes.

However, there has been the odd hitch along the way.

There were complaints of overcrowding on early services while a "cluster" of cancellations hit the route only last month.

ScotRail has admitted it faces a challenge to ensure that "reliability matches the demand for services" between Tweedbank and Edinburgh.

If it can manage that, then there is every reason to believe the route through Midlothian and the Borders can go from strength to strength in the years to come.

Scottish Borders Council leader David Parker said the route had started to transform the area.

"The Borders Railway is opening up opportunities to work, invest, live, learn and visit our region," he said.

"One year since it opened, the railway is starting to help transform the Scottish Borders' economy, from increasing tourism to assisting in the growth of key areas such as the food and drink and creative sectors, and the passenger numbers to date highlight the potential for the area."

Image caption The first passenger trains left Tweedbank for Edinburgh a year ago

He said that, working along with partners, they were looking to capitalise on those opportunities via the Borders Railway Blueprint programme and spread the benefits across the region.

A ScotRail Alliance spokeswoman described the route as "an extraordinary success".

"We are now providing people with an alternative way of travelling to work, to visit friends and family and to use for leisure," she said.

"There have been some challenges and we're determined to find the solutions that overcome them and see even more customers travelling on the line in year two and beyond."

'Maximise benefits'

The Campaign for Borders Rail said there was a strong case for extending the line after 12 months in operation.

"Official studies into the potential for future extension of rail services to bring direct benefits to even more places should be seen as just the beginning of the next stage of railway development in the Scottish Borders," said chairman Allan McLean.

"I appreciate that it will take time to extend the railway.

"In the meantime, there is an opportunity to enhance the existing service to make it more reliable."

He said cancellations and delays to the trains "must not hinder future development".

"In fact, recent experience can inform the future so that lessons are learned to maximise the very real benefits that a reliable train service can bring," he added.

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