2 Background

Borders Railway Year 2 - Evaluation - Survey of users and non-users - February 2018

2 Background


The ‘Waverley Route’, previously provided direct rail services between Edinburgh, the Borders and Carlisle. The route was closed in 1969 having been identified by the Beeching Report as unsuitable for retention. Some 31 years later, and following a locally based campaign, the three local authorities of Edinburgh, Midlothian and Scottish Borders began developing a business case for the re-opening of the line to Tweedbank. Having secured support from the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and the rail industry, the Waverley Railway (Scotland) Act 2006, which authorised construction of the railway, was given royal assent in June 2006. Responsibility for delivery and funding of the Project transferred to Transport Scotland in 2008 and construction on the line began in April 2014. The new railway re-opened to passenger traffic on Sunday 6 September 2015 with the route becoming the longest new domestic railway to be constructed in Britain for over 100 years. Overall, the project involved:

  • 30 miles of new railway;
  • seven new rail stations, four in Midlothian (Shawfair, Eskbank, Newtongrange and Gorebridge) and three in the Scottish Borders (Stow, Galashiels and Tweedbank); and
  • trains running every half hour with a journey between Tweedbank and Edinburgh of less than one hour.

A map illustrating the new line and the stations (including the existing Stations of Brunstane, Newcraighall and Edinburgh) is provided in Figure 2.1.

Figure 2.1: Map of the Borders Railway

Figure 2.1: Map of the Borders Railway

The Business Case

The Final Business Case (FBC) for the Borders Railway, published in November 2012, noted that the re-opening of the line would have a positive contribution towards achieving:

  • the Scottish Government’s Purpose, by increasing the accessibility of Edinburgh and important regional markets for people of Midlothian and the Scottish Borders;
  • the transport objectives outlined in the Government Economic Strategy, by improving the opportunities for leisure and tourism in the region; and
  • the National Transport Strategy’s objectives, by improving integration, promoting regional cohesion/social inclusion and by helping to promote economic growth.

The document outlines four Investment Objectives for the line as shown in the table below.

Table 2.1: Borders Railway Investment Objectives
Objective Description
Investment Objective 1 Promote accessibility to and from the Scottish Borders and Midlothian to Edinburgh (including the airport) and the central belt
Investment Objective 2 Foster social inclusion by improving services for those without access to a car
Investment Objective 3 Prevent decline in the Borders population by securing ready access to Edinburgh’s labour market
Investment Objective 4 Create modal shift from the car to public transport

Borders Railway Year 1 Evaluation

In line with STAG and the Guidance on the Evaluation of Rail Projects, a Year 1 Evaluation of the re-opening of the Borders Railway was completed in September 2016. This aimed to provide a high-level assessment of the extent to which the Borders Railway was on track to meet its Investment Objectives as well as examining views of the service. The research consisted of:

  • An on-train survey of users of the Borders Railway which collected information on travel behaviour pre- and post-opening, as well as opinions on the quality of the service;
  • A telephone survey of non- and one-off users of the Borders Railway which collected information on current travel behaviours and the perceived barriers to using the service;
  • A series of secondary data analysis tasks including a review of LENNON ticket sales and ScotRail passenger count data; and
  • A public transport frequency analysis using TRACC accessibility software which aimed to identify any changes in bus service frequency in the study area.

The results of the research provided a detailed picture of the travel patterns and perceptions of users of the Borders Railway and an important insight into the barriers of using the service amongst both one-off and non-users. Key findings included:

  • Outturn passenger numbers in the first year of operation were higher than forecast at all the Scottish Borders stations and lower than forecast across all the Midlothian stations;
  • A large proportion (nearly 40%) of recorded users of the service were tourists, with a considerable proportion of this group stating that they would not have made their trip were it not for the railway;
  • The re-opening of the line has led to changes in residential and employment choices, with over 50% of users who had moved home and over 80% of those who moved employment since the line re-opened stating that the railway was a factor in their decision;
  • A considerable number of users had switched from car to rail since the line re-opened, with 57% of users previously travelling by car (equating to an estimated 40,000 saved car journeys);
  • There was also a shift from bus to rail, with 29% of users stating that they previously travelled by bus (equivalent to 22,000 bus journeys);
  • Users were least satisfied with the facilities / services at stations and the availability of staff at the stations - issues which likely reflect the fact that all Borders stations are unstaffed and were without toilet facilities (except for the Interchange at Galashiels) at the time of the study;
  • The bus was a more popular alternative amongst non-users from Midlothian compared to non-users from the Scottish Borders, with a larger proportion of Midlothian non-users stating that they didn’t use the service because of the lower cost of the bus, the greater convenience provided by bus options and the ability to use the National Entitlement Card (NEC) on buses; and
  • There have been some changes in the bus network within the vicinity of the line since the line re-opened, including reductions in the frequency of some services, most notably the reduction of the X95 service from a 30-minute to an hourly service.

Passenger Numbers

The Year 1 Evaluation Report noted that a total of 1,267,599 passengers were carried in the first full year of operation (defined as the period 20/09/2015 to 17/09/2016 based on Network Rail industry periods). This was compared to a forecast figure of 1,294,272 although there were large differences at the station level with over-forecasts at the Midlothian stations and under-forecasts at the Borders stations.

In Year 2, analysis of LENNON data provides an equivalent figure of 1,387,819 (defined as the period 18/09/2016 to 16/09/2017), an overall increase of 9.5% over Year 1. It is common for passenger numbers on new rail services to ‘ramp up’ over time and this figure is broadly in line with expectations in this respect. Overall, the number of people travelling to Galashiels and Tweedbank has fallen slightly compared to Year 1 which may be a reflection of a the ‘novelty’ impact of the new line wearing off. Otherwise all stations, including all Midlothian stations, have seen an increase in inbound and outbound travel since Year 1.