South Scotland

Borders Railway breaks million passenger mark

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Media captionThe Borders Railway has surpassed expectations

More than one million passengers have used the Borders Railway since it was officially opened by the Queen.

The figure was announced by Transport Minister Humza Yousaf and ScotRail Alliance managing director Phil Verster at Edinburgh's Waverley station.

The first services ran on the route from Tweedbank to Edinburgh on 6 September last year.

However, the opening ceremony was carried out by the Queen three days later.

The date coincided with her becoming Britain's longest-serving monarch.

The popularity of the route has considerably exceeded initial forecasts.

It had been predicted about 650,000 passengers a year would use the line but that figure was passed within its first six months.

Mr Yousaf and ScotRail Alliance staff were joined by passengers and local businesses from along the line of route to celebrate the impact the new railway has had on Midlothian and the Borders.

Image caption The Queen carried out the opening ceremony in Tweedbank one year ago

Abbotsford House, Sir Walter Scott's former home in the Borders, has recorded a 12% increase in visitor numbers this year.

Research by the Moffat Centre has also shown that overall visits to Midlothian and Borders tourist attractions increased by 4% and 6.9% over the first seven months of 2016, compared with the same period last year.

Mr Yousaf said: "I am delighted that we are continuing to see the Borders Railway go from strength to strength with over one million passengers using the line during its inaugural year.

"Not only has the railway linked the communities in the Borders and Midlothian with the wider Scottish rail network for the first time in 46 years, but the increased accessibility has breathed new life into the region, boosting tourism and employment opportunities.

"We are now committed to working with ScotRail to strengthen the railway operationally, increasing capacity and delivering a comprehensive programme of refurbishments to rolling stock, which will mean more passengers can travel in greater comfort in the future."

'Very proud'

Mr Verster said the first year had been a "tremendous success".

"The new line has brought the Borders closer to the economic and social opportunities of Edinburgh and given visitors to the capital a new way of reaching one of Scotland's most beautiful and historic regions," he said.

"We are very proud of the popularity of the new line, are striving to continually improve the service we offer on it, and look forward to welcoming even more passengers aboard Borders' services in the years ahead."

Plans are in place for more seats to be introduced on peak services next year, along with plans to introduce longer trains on more services from 2018.

'Landmark improvement'

Image copyright Borders Railway
  • Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, said: "Delivered on-time and to-budget in just two years, the completion of this line was a major engineering challenge. All those who worked on the project can be proud of the part they played in reconnecting communities in the Borders with the wider rail network."
  • Dominic Booth, managing director of Abellio UK, said: "We are equally as delighted to have been a part of such a landmark transportation improvement to the Borders, as we recognise just how important Scotland's railway is to the local people, employment, education and tourism, particularly in rural areas. As with anything new of this scale, we know there is room to strengthen and grow. We are excited about what lies ahead for the Borders line and are proud to be celebrating the first year, with a positive outlook of improvements and developments to come."
  • David Parker, leader of Scottish Borders Council, said: "The Borders Railway has been an unparalleled success in its first year of operation, far exceeding the predictions for passenger journey numbers and helping transform the Borders economy. We have already seen economic and social benefits as a result of the Borders Railway opening 12 months ago, including a deal with global IT firm CGI to bring at least 200 new jobs to the Borders."
  • Midlothian Council leader Catherine Johnstone said: "To exceed one million passenger journeys in its first year is a fantastic achievement and shows the potential the line can have to transform Midlothian's economy. Here in Midlothian, we are committed to maximising the opportunities the four local stations, at Shawfair, Eskbank, Newtongrange and Gorebridge, offer in making the county an even more attractive place in which to live, work, learn in and visit."
  • Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, said: "A year ago, the world's media descended on the Borders Railway to cover the momentous reopening of this historic route. Since then, the 30-mile route has provided a huge boost for Scottish tourism, increasing visitor numbers, creating jobs and sustaining communities."
  • Danny Cusick, who chairs the Borders Railway Blueprint Leaders Group, said: "One million passengers is a fantastic achievement and shows clear demand for Borders Railway.┬áThe blueprint partnership's first phase of developments will contribute to the economic impact of the railway over time, opening up new business and investment opportunities right along the railway route."
  • Borders Railway author David Spaven said: "It is encouraging that the transport minister has now acknowledged the scale of the reliability problem on the Borders Railway, and hopefully the ScotRail Alliance improvement plan will be able to deliver some worthwhile enhancement of performance. But sadly, due to Transport Scotland's lack of strategic vision over the last five years, there are underlying problems with the line's largely single-track infrastructure and its Class 158 trains that cannot be fully resolved by any quick fix."

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