Train punctuality on the Borders Railway has sunk to a new low as Scotland’s newest rail line gets set for its first birthday on September 6.
Campaigners have condemned its performance as “shocking” and said delays and cancellations had reached “epidemic” proportions.
ScotRail figures show only about one in four trains – 28.4 per cent – arrived on time at the start of this month. In addition, at least 70 trains were cancelled over the first ten days of August. These have been blamed on track and train faults, a driver on sick leave and a fallen tree.
The poor performance is also hitting more passengers because the line is expected to notch up 300,000 more trips than its target of 1.3 million by its first anniversary.
Rail consultant and author David Spaven said cuts to double-track sections, enabling trains to pass each other, had hit reliability. He said: “The Borders Railway has proved to be a classic penny-wise, pound-foolish project. Poor official traffic forecasts have proved to have underestimated passenger numbers by nearly 900 per cent.
“The ludicrously pessimistic forecasts contributed to a supposedly poor ‘business case’, which in turn led to the Scottish Government’s accountants chopping back the infrastructure specification .
“Taken together with the poor performance of the Class 158 trains, and frequent failures of track and signalling equipment, there is now a clear case for an official inquiry to find out how this shambles was allowed to develop, who the culprits were and why the concerns expressed by rail campaigners years ago were ignored.
“In the meantime, the Scottish Government, Network Rail and ScotRail urgently need to produce a robust recovery plan before large numbers of travellers abandon this seriously unreliable railway.”
A ScotRail spokeswoman said: “We do everything we can to keep customers moving when things go wrong and we’re working to ensure reliability matches the demand for services on this new line.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “We are committed to ensuring ScotRail delivers a punctual and reliable rail service across the network and that they address issues around punctuality.”