Thursday, 15 September 2016

Birthday Celebrations and an Urgent Review Ordered on Borders Railway

The Borders Railway has carried more than a million passengers since it was opened by the Queen a year ago. However an urgent review has been ordered into dire performance figures.
Built at a cost of £10m a mile, the 35-mile line from Edinburgh Waverley to Tweedbank near Galashiels has one of the worst performance records of any on the Scottish network after a spate of breakdowns and delays.
 The line is single track in many places
severely restricting capacity

Campaigners say that across the first four days of this week only 36 of the 132 scheduled trains from Edinburgh arrived at Tweedbank on time.
Since October last year it has never had a week where more than 70% of services were on time, and in some weeks the figure has been as low as 30%.
ScotRail Abellio, the line’s Dutch-owned operator, has admitted that the second-hand Class 158 diesel trains used on the line are unable to deal with the steep gradient they have to climb at Falahill, where the line rises 880ft above sea level.
The radiators overheat as the trains struggle uphill, causing engines to cut out. Engineers are now testing more effective cooling systems but ScotRail said it had no date by which they would be fitted.
At the same time, devices called axle counters, which monitor each train’s journey along the 25 miles of single-track line, have suffered repeated faults, causing trains to stop, campaigners say.
Humza Yousaf, the Scottish transport minister, said the line had “breathed new life into the region” but he had ordered a full operational review to investigate the problems. “The reliability of the service has not been to the standard I expect,” Yousaf said. “I have therefore asked ScotRail to present me with an improvement plan for the line, which will reassure passengers with enhanced reliability as quickly as possible.”
ScotRail and the Scottish government said the line had been far more popular than expected, attracting 1 million passengers this year – well above the original projections. That itself caused delays. Visitor numbers at attractions including Sir Walter Scott’s home at Abbotsford have grown by up to 12%.
ScotRail insisted the line had been an “extraordinary success”. It had been predicted about 650,000 passengers a year would use the line but that figure was passed within its first six months.
David Spaven, a rail consultant and Borders railway campaigner, said that optimism was undermined by the data. “The reality has been a mixture of very good and very bad outcomes. Until now the political establishment has been unwilling to confront that. But finally, now they’re admitting there has been a big problem.”