Secretary of State for Scotland seeks assurances over future of Borders Rail Project
Graham Ford • Published 9 Aug 2012 09:00
THE Secretary of State for Scotland has admitted he is "deeply concerned" by claims that the brakes were being put on plans to reintroduce train services to the Borders for the first time in more than 40 years in a bid to save money.
And he has written to the country's Transport Minister for reassurance that the the rebuilding of the line between Tweedbank and Edinburgh is still on track.
It followed speculation that Transport Scotland, which is in charge of overseeing the £295million project, is planning to reduce the length of crossing loops on the single line track in an attempt to cut costs.
The Campaign for Borders Rail warned that would increase journey times between Edinburgh and the Borders beyond the 55 minute maximum currently planned, and end up costing more in the long term.
They have also reiterated their plea for the two platforms proposed at the planned terminus in Tweedbank be extended, from the current six-coach specification for standard ScotRail services to 10 or 11 coaches in length, to accommodate so-called tourist trains which they claim could generate an extra half a million pounds for the local economy each year.
Borders MP Michael Moore said: "The Borders railway must provide the best possible service to local people so nobody wants any changes which would lengthen the journey time between Tweedbank and Edinburgh.
"I have therefore written to the Transport Secretary, Keith Brown to ask him to clarify the plans and urge him to maintain the planned journey time of 55 minutes."
Transport Scotland insisted the speculation that the brakes were being put on plans to reintroduce train services to the Borders was way off track. A spokesperson said: "These claims are inaccurate. Bringing benefits for local communities and businesses in Midlothian and the Borders remains the key consideration in our work with Network Rail towards delivery of this project.
"Investigations undertaken during the Parliamentary process indicated that scheduled passenger services were the only viable option at that time. However, with the use of additional stewarding procedures, it would be possible to run charter trains to Tweedbank, without any additional costs or delay to the project."
And they added: "As we progress the detailed design our focus continues to be on journey time efficiency."
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