3 Primary Research Approach

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

3 Primary Research Approach


This Chapter provides a brief overview of the methodology adopted in delivering the research. It includes details of the approach taken and content of the User and Non-User Surveys and the number of responses received.

User Survey

Survey Content

The primary purpose of the User Survey was to gather information on the current travel patterns and behaviours of users and how these have changed since the re-opening of the line. Table 3.1 below provides a summary of the key sections and topic areas covered by the Year 1 User Survey. To ensure compatibility with the previous work, the Year 1 User Survey was used as a basis for the Year 2 Survey. Given the greater focus on tourist users however, a number of additional tourism based questions were included. These covered:

  • What attracted visitors to make their trip, and
  • An overall rating for their trip as a whole
Table 3.1: User Survey Content
Survey Section Topics Covered
About your Journey
  • origin & destination station
  • trip start and end points
  • method of transport used to access / egress station
  • ticket type
  • trip purpose
  • ability to get a seat
Travel Prior to the re-opening of the Line
  • Was current journey made by another mode previously
  • Mode used previously
  • Benefits of switching to rail
  • How would you make trip if Borders Railway had not re-opened
How has the Borders Railway Affected You
  • Impact / benefits of Borders Railway (improved access etc.)
Borders Railway and Your Life Choices
  • Impact of railway on housing and employment location, number of hours worked, and car ownership
  • Trip type (day trip OR overnight stay) and trip destination (Edinburgh, Midlothian OR Scottish Borders)
  • Accommodation type and spend (where applicable)
  • Tourist activities undertaken and spend
  • Home location
  • Impact of railway on decision to make trip
  • Propensity to make trip if Borders Railway had not re-opened and what alternative activities would have been undertaken
Views of the Service
  • User Satisfaction with aspects of service
  • Any other comments


As with the Year 1 User Survey, the Year 2 User Survey was administered by fieldworkers on the train. The researchers distributed the surveys on a carriage-by-carriage basis. Passengers were encouraged to complete the survey there and then and the completed responses were collected back in by the researchers before they moved onto the next carriage.

Where completing and returning the survey on-board the train was not possible, a postage paid return envelope was provided so that participants could return the completed questionnaire in their own time. In addition, where an individual required additional assistance in completing the survey, a telephone number and free call back service was offered so that respondents could, where required, complete the survey over the telephone. The user surveys were undertaken over the following four days:

  • Wednesday 23rd August;
  • Saturday 26th August;
  • Wednesday 6th September; and
  • Saturday 16th September.

A Fieldwork Schedule was developed prior to conducting the surveys using passenger counts provided by ScotRail. This covered trains departing Tweedbank between the hours 0559 and 1801 and departing Brunstane between the hours of 0659 and 1904.

Achieved Response

In total, 825 User Survey responses were received. A breakdown of the sample characteristics is provided in Appendix A. Each respondent to the survey provided an indication of how frequently they make the trip they were making at the time of the survey. The responses to this question were then used to calculate an estimated annual trip figure for both single and return trips for each respondent using the approach outlined by Appendix B. Overall, an estimated 100,000 annual single trips were captured by the sample which represents approximately 8% of the passenger journeys recorded in the first full year of the railway being open.

1 Non-user Survey

The second element of the research was a survey of non-users of the Borders Railway. The methodological approach adopted for the delivery of this is provided below.

Survey Content

The primary purpose of the Non-user survey was to gather information on the perceived barriers to using the service. During the Year 1 Surveys, the definition of a Non-User was broadened out to include one-off users. The rationale behind this was that (a) it would be useful to understand why one-off users had not made greater use of the railway and (b) it was unlikely that these individuals would be captured via the User Survey. Given the time that has elapsed since the re-opening of the line, at the outset of the Year 2 study, it was agreed that this definition should be further broadened to include those who had used the service up to five times since its opening in September 2015. Including this group ensured that the Non-User Survey captured information on why low frequency users do not make greater use of the railway.

As with the User Survey, the Year 1 Non-User Survey formed the basis for the Year 2 Survey to ensure consistency across both datasets. Overall, the Year 1 Non-User Survey included questions on:

  • Main purpose of trip on the Borders Railway (one-off and occasional users only);
  • Origin / Destination Stations (one-off and occasional users only);
  • Reasons for not using the Borders Railway or not using it more frequently including, for example, the cost of rail travel relative to bus; the ability to use the National Entitlement Card on the bus; difficulty getting a seat or getting on the service due to capacity constraints; bus connections to / from the station being inconvenient; lack of parking facilities; and poor reliability (one-off and non-users);
  • Types of improvement which would encourage respondents to use the service more frequently including, for example, improved reliability, frequency, and capacity; improved public transport services to / from the station; improved station facilities; and more through services to and beyond Haymarket (one-off and non-users); and
  • How often, where and for what purpose respondents would travel using the service if the improvements they selected were made (one-off and non-users).

For the Year 2 Non-User Survey, a number of further questions were included. These sought to gather information on:

  • Whether respondents had noticed any significant changes locally in bus service frequency and / or bus routes since the re-opening of the line;
  • The impact of such changes in bus provision (e.g. inability to access key services, the inability to access key services at the time required etc.); and
  • Whether respondents had noticed any significant changes in the level of traffic / congestion since the re-opening of the railway.

Sample Identification

The sample of Non-Users of the Borders Railway was identified using the catchment tiers utilised in the borders Baseline Study and the results of the Year 1 Evaluation, and information on the outturn passenger trips by station. Each of these are discussed below.

Catchment Tiers and Year 1 Evaluation

For the Non-User Survey to be effective, it was important to ensure that using the Borders Railway is a realistic option for the respondents selected to take part in the study. For example, it would not be useful to ask residents of areas outside of the catchment area for the line why they have not used the service. To account for this, as part of the Borders Railway Baseline Study, TRACC accessibility planning software was used to identify a series of potential catchments based on access to the station as follows. These are shown in Figure 3.1 and defined as follows:

  • Tier 1: areas where walk-in access to the new stations is possible (<15 minutes), taking account of the walking network, including off street, footpaths and any new active travel based links to the new stations;
  • Tier 2: excluding Tier 1, areas where reasonable bus-based public transport access is possible (i.e. along bus routes serving the stations) – e.g. by bus within 15 minutes in both an AM and PM peak period; and
  • Tier 3: excluding Tiers 1 and 2, areas where only car-based access to stations is realistic (within 20 minutes), and the new stations will become the closest P&R option for accessing Edinburgh. For example, Penicuik residents would not be expected to use the Borders railway to access Edinburgh, despite being approximately 20 minutes’ drive from a station.

Figure 3.1: Geographical Extent of Catchment Tiers

Figure 3.1: Geographical Extent of Catchment Tiers

During the Year 1 Evaluation, these tiers were used as an approximate catchment area for the line, with only residents located in these locations contacted to take part in the Non-User Survey. For the Year 2 Non-User Survey, a similar approach was adopted. However, in light of the results of the Year 1 User Survey which showed that users of Tweedbank were drawn from a large geographic area, the tiered area in the south was extended to include Hawick, Kelso and Jedburgh.

Outturn Passenger Numbers

The number of trips originating at the Midlothian stations during the first year of operation of the Borders Railway were significantly below both the number of trips originating at the Scottish Borders stations and forecast levels. With this in mind, to effectively target non-users of the Borders Railway, the Year 2 Non-User sample was targeted towards residents of Midlothian above those in the Scottish Borders to gain a better understanding of why they don’t use the service as much as anticipated.

Survey Method

The Non-User Survey was conducted by telephone and specifically targeted residents living within the identified areas as discussed above. The contact details for respondents were drawn from:

  • A database of responses to the 2015 Borders Railway Baseline Household Survey; and
  • a telephone database of residents of the Scottish Borders and Midlothian living within the Tiers 1, 2 and 3 as defined above.

As part of the 2015 Borders Railway Baseline Household Survey, participants were asked a series of questions including (i) if they anticipated using the Borders Railway in the first 12 months of operation and (ii) whether they would be willing to be contacted again for future research. In total, 251 respondents answered yes to both questions, with 171 of these living within the identified catchment areas discussed above.

During the Year 1 Evaluation, these 171 respondents were contacted by telephone and asked if (i) they would be willing to complete the Non-User Survey and (ii) whether they had used the Borders Railway since it re-opened. Of these 171 respondents 30 took part in the survey and 43 stated that they had used the service and therefore the survey was no longer applicable to them. As part of the Year 2 surveys, this group of 30 respondents was contacted again and asked to take part in the Year 2 Non-User Survey. As with the Year 1 Survey, respondents were contacted via telephone using the telephone details they provided during the Baseline Survey.

The responses from this database were then supplemented by a ‘conventional’ telephone survey of residents from the Scottish Borders and Midlothian identified through an electoral roll database

Achieved Responses

In total, 250 responses were received to the Non-User Survey. Overall, 64% (n=161) of the overall sample live in Midlothian, with 36% (n=89) based within the Scottish Borders. A breakdown of the sample characteristics is provided in Appendix C.


As noted above, in addition to the surveys, the Year 2 study included a series of consultations with bus operators and local councils in the Borders and Midlothian. During the Year 1 Evaluation, a public transport frequency analysis was undertaken using TRACC accessibility software to establish whether there had been any changes in bus service frequency since the re-opening of the Borders Railway. As part of this Year 2 study, this frequency analysis was repeated using up to date public transport data. The consultations aimed to establish the extent to which any identified changes were a result of the re-opening of the line. Consultations were undertaken with Scottish Borders and Midlothian Council; First Group; Lothian Buses; and Borders Buses.

The consultations took the form of semi-structured telephone consultations. Topic guides were developed to inform the discussions. These provided a loose structure for the meetings, with the discussions generally allowed to take their own course reflecting the specific remit of each consultee. Following each meeting, the key points from each discussion were documented in a note and sent to the individual consultee for amendment and approval.