How fast will the train journey be?
Transport Scotland – who have taken over project development from Scottish Borders Council – have reworked the planned timetable to make the most of the 100mph speed limit on the new line. Journey times will be:
For travellers from Hawick, Selkirk and other Borders towns not directly served by the railway there will be a well-designed bus-rail interchange point at Galashiels station.
These improved journey times will mean a much faster journey time than by car in the peak hours and than by bus throughout the day. Trains will also have toilets, space for bikes and wheelchairs – and will give you the opportunity to get up and stretch your legs.
Plenty of places don’t have a railway – why is the Borders Railway so important?
The Borders are part of Scotland but do not benefit from the considerable amount of public money supporting the Scottish rail network. When it comes to transport it's roads or nothing which, for the significant number of households not owning a car - 38% in Hawick and 32% in Galashiels according to the last census - means the bus has to take the strain.
Buses have a very important role to play within the Borders, but not as the main public transport mode along the Edinburgh - Central Borders - Carlisle corridor, with an end-to-end journey time of almost 3½ hours. Virtually every other comparable route in Scotland is served by rail and enjoys on-train facilities such as toilets, catering and adequate space for luggage, including bicycles. Hawick and Galashiels are in the top seven biggest Scottish towns not served by rail and, with the exception of Peterhead, are far more remote from the rail network than any of the other five.
Highland Council has a resident population of around twice that of Scottish Borders Council (but far more thinly spread) yet can boast a total of 59 railway stations, as opposed to nil in the Borders at present.
The Borders aren’t looking for special treatment – just a fair deal!
What will the railway do for tourism in the Borders?
The new timetabled train service will make it much easier for domestic and international visitors to Edinburgh to make visits to the Borders in a sustainable environmentally-friendly way.
There is also significant potential for passenger charter trains – the luxury Royal Scotsman is a regular visitor to Scotland’s scenic Highland lines, and Tweedbank station will be an ideal stepping-off point for connecting vintage coaches to Melrose, the Borders Abbeys and Sir Walter Scott’s house at Abbotsford.
Other charter trains – for example from London and North of England cities – can also be expected to bring new visitors direct to the Borders. The typical local spend per train arrival at destination stations can be over £10,000. Our initial research suggests that the charter market could bring £500,000 of new spend to the Borders economy every year.
However, as currently planned, the Borders Railway will be able to accommodate only a small proportion of this market. CBR is pressing hard, together with tourism interests, for this significant omission to be rectified by Transport Scotland.
There is substantial demand in Edinburgh and Midlothian for walking and cycling day trips, particularly the latter, as the Borders is ideal for cycling, but just too far for the average leisure cyclist to pedal down from Edinburgh and back in one day. Walkers and cyclists will be able to link directly into long-distance trails at Tweedbank, with the town of Melrose just five minutes away by bike.
For hill walkers from Edinburgh, at present the nearest rail-served destinations in comparable hilly countryside are Dunkeld and Pitlochry, taking over 90 minutes by train compared to just 45 minutes or less on the train to Stow!
The Waverley Route Trust has produced an analysis of the tourist charter market, which is available on request from David Spaven on 0131-221-9019.
Won’t the railway lead to the Borders becoming just a ‘dormitory’ for Edinburgh?
New housing and retail developments have been appearing across the Central Borders throughout the years since the old Waverley Route railway closed in 1969. The building sector is driven by the wider state of the national economy, as events since 2007 have clearly demonstrated – not by the presence or absence of the railway.
The provision of a reliable rail service will allow commuters to switch from car to rail – and for those without cars will provide a much higher quality of service than the bus.
The train will also make it much easier for visitors to travel sustainably to the Borders, reducing the environmental impact and bringing in new demand for shops and services.
Won’t a single-track railway be unreliable?
The original Waverley Railway scheme envisaged a single-track railway from Newcraighall (connecting to the national rail system) to Tweedbank, with three ‘crossing loops’ (to allow trains to pass each other) providing a total of just 9.5 miles of double-track line out of the 30.5 miles of new railway. However, Transport Scotland has now improved the infrastructure specification, so that there will be at least 15.5 miles of double-track. A modern signalling system will be used, and the longer stretches of double track now stipulated will provide an extra ‘buffer’ to minimise any disruptions from late-running trains.
First ScotRail is in any case well used to operating reliable services over single-track railways, including a number of strategic routes such as Perth-Inverness, Inverness-Aberdeen and Ayr-Stranraer
Will the railway be able to take freight off the roads?
We all would like to see fewer lorries on the roads. As currently planned, the Borders Railway will have spare capacity for freight trains in the evenings and at weekends. While CBR does not expect rail freight traffic to develop in the earliest days of the new railway, as oil prices continue to rise we anticipate that medium-term freight opportunities at Tweedbank will include waste, timber and road salt, and coal traffic in Midlothian.
However, it is important that the final design for Tweedbank station should include ‘passive provision’ for a future freight terminal – and indeed for extension of the railway southwards for passenger and freight traffic.
In the longer term, our freight vision sees both timber by rail from the Kielder, Wauchope, Newcastleton and Kershope forests, and a strategic Anglo-European rail route to Carlisle, capable of carrying the modern generation of high-capacity containers and continental wagons.
The Waverley Route Trust has produced an analysis of the freight market, which is available on request from David Spaven on 0131-221-9019.