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Over a million passenger journeys have been made on the Borders Railway since it officially opened
The new figure was announced by Transport Minister Humza Yousaf and ScotRail Alliance managing director Phil Verster at a special event at Edinburgh Waverley this morning to mark the line’s first birthday.
Borders, which is the longest new line built in the UK for over a century, was officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen on Wednesday, September 9, 2015.
Mr Yousaf and ScotRail Alliance staff were joined by passengers and local businesses from along the line of route to celebrate the positive economic and social impact the new railway has had on Midlothian and the Borders.
Over its first 12 months the new railway’s 21,000 train services have carried its first million passengers on a combined 35 million miles. Verified passenger numbers for the first year of operation are not yet available, but they are expected to exceed the forecasts made in the original business case.
Local tourist attractions are also starting to see the benefits of the new line with Abbotsford House, Sir Walter Scott’s home, recording a 12% increase in visitor numbers this year. Elsewhere, research by the Moffat Centre has shown that overall visits to Midlothian and Borders tourist attractions increased by 4% and 6.9% over the first seven months of 2016, compared to the same period last year.
Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said: “I am delighted that we are continuing to see the Borders Railway go from strength to strength with over one million passengers using the line during its inaugural year.
“Not only has the railway linked the communities in the Borders and Midlothian with the wider Scottish rail network for the first time in 46 years, but the increased accessibility has breathed new life into the region, boosting tourism and employment opportunities.
“We are now committed to working with ScotRail to strengthen the railway operationally, increasing capacity and delivering a comprehensive programme of refurbishments to rolling stock, which will mean more passengers can travel in greater comfort in the future.”
Phil Verster, ScotRail Alliance managing director, added: “The first year of the Borders Railway has been a tremendous success for the communities the line serves – transforming the way people across Midlothian and the Borders travel.
“The new line has brought the Borders closer to the economic and social opportunities of Edinburgh and given visitors to the capital a new way of reaching one of Scotland’s most beautiful and historic regions.
“We are very proud of the popularity of the new line, are striving to continually improve the service we offer on in it, and look forward to welcoming even more passengers aboard Borders’ services in the years ahead.”
Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “Delivered on-time and to-budget in just two years, the completion of this line was a major engineering challenge. All those who worked on the project can be proud of the part they played in reconnecting communities in the Borders with the wider rail network.”
Dominic Booth, managing director of Abellio UK, said: “We are equally as delighted to have been a part of such a landmark transportation improvement to the Borders, as we recognise just how important Scotland's railway is to the local people, employment, education and tourism, particularly in rural areas.
“As with anything new of this scale, we know there is room to strengthen and grow. We are excited about what lies ahead for the Borders line and are proud to be celebrating the first year, with a positive outlook of improvements and developments to come."
The reopening of the Borders Railway re-established services from Edinburgh through Midlothian to Tweedbank for the first time in over four decades. The project, which was completed on-time and to-budget, included constructing 30 miles of new railway and seven new stations – at Shawfair, Eskbank, Newtongrange, Gorebridge, Stow, Galashiels and Tweedbank
Such is the demand to travel on the line, more seats will be introduced on peak services next year along with plans to introduce longer trains on more services from 2018 – providing significant, longer term increases in capacity.
This is in addition to a significant investment in the rolling stock to deliver enhancements worth over £14 million to the trains over the next two years including fitting power sockets, flooring, lighting, painting, re-livery and wheelchair spaces.
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Councillor David Parker, Leader of Scottish Borders Council, said: “The Borders Railway has been an unparalleled success in its first year of operation, far exceeding the predictions for passenger journey numbers and helping transform the Borders economy.
“We have already seen economic and social benefits as a result of the Borders Railway opening 12 months ago, including a deal with global IT firm CGI to bring at least 200 new jobs to the Borders.
“The Borders Railway Blueprint programme clearly sets out how Scottish Borders Council and our partners will capitalise on the opportunities presented by the new line. We are committed to working hard with partners to ensure the railway continues to be a success, and delivers benefits to as many people as possible.”
Midlothian Council Leader Councillor Catherine Johnstone said: “To exceed 1 million passenger journeys in its first year is a fantastic achievement and shows the potential the line can have to transform Midlothian’s economy.
“Here in Midlothian, we are committed to maximising the opportunities the four local stations, at Shawfair, Eskbank, Newtongrange and Gorebridge, offer in making the county an even more attractive place in which to live, work, learn in and visit.
“We’ve certainly got plenty to celebrate at towns and villages down the line. For example, the brand new school at Gore Glen and the surrounding housing is served by both Newtongrange and Gorebridge railway stations making journeys to and from the city centre or the Borders in around 25 minutes.
“A report to the full council on the Borders Railway later this month will give more details of the achievements and challenges of the past year and our plans for the future.”
Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, said: “A year ago, the world’s media descended on the Borders Railway to cover the momentous re-opening of this historic route. Since then, the 30 mile route has provided a huge boost for Scottish tourism, increasing visitor numbers, creating jobs and sustaining communities. It has also helped to shine a spotlight on the Scottish Borders, Midlothian and Edinburgh, making it easier than ever before for visitors to explore the wealth of attractions these regions have to offer.
“We will continue to build on this success through our global marketing campaign, the Spirit of Scotland, while working with businesses to ensure they make the most of the continuing opportunities presented by the Borders Railway.”
Danny Cusick, Senior Director for Textiles, Tourism, and Food & Drink at Scottish Enterprise and Chair of the Borders Railway Blueprint Leaders Group said: “One million passengers is a fantastic achievement and shows clear demand for Borders Railway.
“The Blueprint partnership’s first phase of developments will contribute to the economic impact of the railway over time, opening up new business and investment opportunities right along the railway route.
“We’re already seeing some early investment decisions linked to the railway, such as global IT company CGI locating a digital centre of excellence in the Borders that will potentially create up to 200 new jobs, and legal firm Davidson Chalmers opening an office in the Galashiels Transport Interchange which the company described as a ‘game-changer’ in how they deliver services to Borders-based clients.”