Half of services on Scotland’s newest railway run late

HALF of services on the longest new domestic railway to be built in the UK for over 100 years fail to arrive on time.

ScotRail has come under fresh criticism as the latest annual figures show that the punctuality record on Borders Railway services is one of the worst in Scotland.

Before the line was officially reopened by the Queen in September, 2015, the Borders was the largest area of the UK without a rail link.

More than 2.6 million passengers used the railway in the first two years and property experts even attributed a surge in house purchases in the Borders to the popularity of the railway.

But it has emerged that 49.5 per cent of the 33 trains a day running from Edinburgh into Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders are on schedule or within a minute of their due time according to latest official data.

HeraldScotland:

Official data shows that the punctuality performance has remained static in the three years of the railway's existence, with 49.2 percent running as scheduled in the year to July and August last year and in mid-2016, it was at 43.1 per cent.

The Campaign for Borders Rail, the grassroots group that campaigned for the re-opening of the railway which had been shut for almost half a century, said reliability was a "matter of concern".

Borders Railway extension considered as part of transport review

It had noted that in the first year of the Borders Railway only 15 ScotRail services out of 75 had a poorer performance than Tweedbank, and of these only six were comparable regular interval services.

Some 87.8 percent of services over the year to April arrived within five minutes of their scheduled time, short of the train operator's moving annual average public performance measure target of 89.4 per cent.

Meanwhile the popularity of the 30-mile line which takes travellers past castles, sheep farms and market towns deep into the glorious Scottish Borders countryside, remains on an upward trajectory.

The number of passengers using the line, which launched in September, 2015, has risen from an average of 24,377 in its first first year of operation, to 26,689 in the second year.

Simon Walton, chairman of the Campaign for Borders Rail, said: "There is no doubting that the railway is very popular, and far more are using it than was ever predicted.

"But the infrastructure is barely capable of maintaining the service. That includes the length of trains and double track [to mitigate against train or points failure]which is insufficient to cope with demand."

Numbers using Borders railway exceeds expectations in first six months

Analysts have previously criticised the pessimistic traffic forecasts which contributed to a supposedly poor business case which in turn led to Transport Scotland cutting back the double-track requirement for the railway from 16 miles to just 9.5 miles.

Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP Rachael Hamilton said improvements were required.

She said: "Summer is here, and it is now more important than ever that those who want to come to the Scottish Borders have a reliable train service to do so.

HeraldScotland: Rachael Hamilton

"A more reliable service means more visitors, and more visitors means a stronger Borders economy. I hope Scotrail can deliver on their promises."

There were protests and demonstrations up and down what was then known as the Waverley line, when it was closed in 1969, as a result of the Beeching Report, leaving the area as one of the most disconnected rail regions in Britain.

It became the the longest section of Beeching-cuts rail line yet reopened, and cost roughly £10m a mile, with its total cost estimated at £350m just before it opened.

In April rail campaigners hailed "highly productive" talkswith Transport Minister Humza Yousaf over having the line fully reopened to Carlisle, its original destination.

Borders Railway hit by delays and cancellations

But at the time the Borders Railway was opened, it was estimated the extension would cost at least £500m, at a time of heavily squeezed public spending.

In January, ScotRail drafted in railway consultant Nick Donovan to carry out an independent review its performance, which resulted in 20 performance improvement recommendations.

A ScotRail Alliance spokesman said: “Performance is not where we want it to be and as this year progresses, our customers will continue to see improvements as more of the 20 Donovan Performance Improvement Recommendations begin to support the improvement of the day-to-day running of services.

“We are building the best railway Scotland has ever had and service performance is a huge part of this delivery. Everyone at the ScotRail Alliance is working together to deliver these improvements.”



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