South Scotland

Borders Railway 'serious' issues raised

Train Image copyright Dougie Johnston

The new Borders railway service is beset by cancellations, delays and unreliable trains, a new report has claimed.

Rail campaigners Bill Jamieson and David Spaven compiled the report from Network Rail and timetable data from the Realtime Trains website.

They said it showed "serious underperformance of the line", which re-opened in September 2015.

ScotRail said it was "determined" to find a solution to the "challenges".

The Borders Rail Monitor report said that the line, which is run by ScotRail operator Abellio, was blighted by delays caused in part by poor infrastructure choices imposed by Transport Scotland.

It said: "It is important to acknowledge deeper underlying factors for which Abellio, the operator of ScotRail, cannot be held responsible.

"It was, for example, Transport Scotland which determined the constrained infrastructure specification for the Borders Railway and the decision to deploy Class 158 units - the least reliable diesel units in Scotland - for a route with steep gradients and multiple stops on every train service."

The report said that on only 12 weeks out of 52, ScotRail's public performance measure target of 92.5% of trains arriving within five minutes of schedule had been achieved for the Edinburgh to Tweedbank service.

Faulty signalling

The result was worse on the return route from Tweedbank to Edinburgh, which recorded only seven weeks out of 52 where the same target was met.

In all but five weeks of the year, trains along the 35-mile route were cancelled, according to the report.

It concluded that "it is extremely difficult to consistently operate the Borders Railway to timetable".

The campaigners call for a raft of measures to be introduced to improve the railway's running.

Image copyright DougieJohnston
Image caption The report said an increase in the number of coaches was required for busy periods

They include:

  • Improving the efficiency of door opening and closing.
  • Increasing the number of coaches on busier services.
  • Replacing defective radiators on the Class 158s.
  • Improving the maintenance regime for the coaches.
  • Redeploying more reliable 3-car Class 170 units.
  • Replacing faulty signalling equipment on the route.

More than one million passengers have used the Borders Railway since it was officially opened by the Queen on 9 September last year.

ScotRail acknowledged the issue with the Class 158's radiator and said new models were being fitted.

The company also cited problems with the track and signalling along the route as well as recent industrial action among its staff.

'Electric fleet'

A spokeswoman added: "Borders Railway has been 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.

"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."

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: "The ScotRail 158 fleet is currently undergoing a £14m refurbishment programme delivering significant upgrades to on-train facilities.

"As more refurbished trains are completed they will be rolled out onto central belt routes, including Borders, next year, increasing capacity and reliability for passengers on the Borders Railway.

"Additionally, the electrification of the Central Belt rail network and the introduction of our new electric fleet of trains means there will be extra capacity on peak Borders services from 2017."

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