Scotrail Alliance representatives last week faced questions from furious councillors about the poor performance of the Borders Railway line.
As reported in last week’s Advertiser, Transport Minister Humza Yousaf has promised to put pressure on Scotrail to improve standards on the line which runs through Midlothian, following the recent publication of the Borders Rail Monitor report which found that in 45 weeks out of 52 since October 2015, the service failed to meet ScotRail’s target of 92.5 per cent of trains arriving within five minutes of schedule.
Concerns raised by councillors included the provision of carriages that are overcrowded, reliability of the service, ticket machines at Eskbank Station and aligning bus services with the Borders Railway to stop pushing Midlothian people into their cars.
Scotrail bosses assured councillors that they take the issues “extremely seriously” on what is a “very challenging service to operate”, and said that they are addressing key issues that have caused performance to drop, including axle counter power failures and radiator issues on the 158 carriages. They also promised to investigate the ticket machine problems and stressed their commitment to integrated transport.
Councillor Russel Imrie (Lab) questioned why Scotrail was surprised by high passenger numbers on the line since it opened last year. He said: “I’m just trying to get into my head an understanding of a comment you made earlier that you were surprised at passenger growth. Edinburgh and South East Scotland have enjoyed unprecedented growth for nigh on ten years. The figures year on year show that rail patronage is unlike any other part of Scotland.
“Therefore I was surprised to hear that you didn’t expect these passenger numbers. I find it very depressing that you are surprised that people actually used the rail line.
“Transport Scotland were told that patronage would be a lot higher than what was anticipated in the first place,
“In this country of ours we can’t seem to be able anticipate growth and end up being reactive instead of proactive.”
James Ledgerwood of Scotrail responded by saying that what had been surprising was the significant variations of passenger numbers between the individual stations, not the passenger numbers themselves. And that Scotrail will keep on top of the current passenger numbers and increased patronage due to house building in Midlothian.