Council gets railway carriages assurance

Newtongrange Train Station
Newtongrange Train Station

Midlothian Council chief executive Kenneth Lawrie has had assurances that more carriages will be added to Borders Railway trains.

Mr Lawrie revealed at last week’s full council meeting that Scotrail Alliance managing director Phil Verster has promised to increase the number of carriages on trains from two to three and from four to six, after he raised concerns on train capacity and poor punctuality.

He said: “Mr Verster has assured me that Scotrail accept that the current situation is not good enough.

“There are the 50 per cent increases in the size of trains which will come into effect later in 2017 and into 2018. That will clearly have an impact on capacity.

“In terms of performance itself, I note that in the most recently published figures, for the four weeks to 17 September, 85.9 per cent of trains arrived on time. That’s an improvement from 76.3 per cent in the previous period.

“But we would clearly still want and expect to see further improvements on that. As it is still below the Scotrail average.

“And I have certainly made my views on that very clear to Scotrail and I think they understand our concerns.”

However, Councillor Russell Imrie (Lab) called on the council to go further: “I really find it very difficult to understand the logic and common sense, that putting on a train set was fine, not actually having the number of coaches on that train set was fundamentally wrong.

“And I don’t accept that its good enough to acknowledge the commitment by Abelio (Scotrail). I think we have got to be in there saying you are going to have to do something as soon as possible.

“We spoke earlier about the amount of housing development that’s going to be going right along that A7 corridor and we are expecting people to use alternative modes of transport.

“The fundamental point is that two coaches going up to three and four going up to six isn’t going to be good enough.

“I think we really need to be there from the outset saying we need more.”

Councillors agreed to invest £450,000 in maximising the economic opportunities of the Borders Railway. This is on top of the £300,000 previously agreed in 2014 and 2015.

Councillors and officials also admitted that the £64,000 hop-on hop-off tourist bus pilot to tie in with the railway, funded half and half by the council and the Borders Railway blueprint fund, had been a “huge disappointment” with “very low usage”.