18.03.2024 /

East West Rail’s potential perfectly illustrated by success of reopened railway

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The success of Borders Railway demonstrates how EWR can create a huge positive legacy for the Oxford to Cambridge region, as highlighted at the recent Transport Select Committee hearing.

Borders Railway, connecting Edinburgh and Tweedbank, reopened in 2015 and has experienced success far exceeding original expectations. The passenger numbers are almost treble those first forecast and the project has been hailed for revolutionising the Scottish Borders economy – increasing business investment, driving footfall, boosting tourism and improving work and leisure opportunities.

Image of Galashiels train station sign

At 35 miles, it’s a similar length to East West Rail’s proposed new section of railway linking Bedford and Cambridge, which is 38 miles. The former Varsity Line and the Borders Railway (which was then known as the Waverley Line) were both closed in the 1960s. Through services from Oxford to Cambridge ended in 1966 and the Borders Railway closed in 1969.

The project has massively exceeded expectations, providing a boom to overcome initial opposition to the railway.”– Cllr Euan Jardine, leader of the Scottish Borders Council

It was initially thought that Borders Railway would carry around 600,000 passengers a year, but by 2018/19 that figure had risen to 1,789,467. Such high demand led to Scotrail introducing more carriages and a more frequent service. It has been so successful that a £10 million feasibility study has now been commissioned to look at extending the line from its current terminus.

Image of a stationary train at a platform in Tweedback station with a ticket guard walking

Cllr Jardine said the town of Galashiels, which is served by Borders Railway, used to be a struggling, run-down high street before the railway’s arrival, but is now a rejuvenated town centre.

A Transport Committee session examining East West Rail heard how Borders Railway has been “extraordinarily popular”, has generated “lots of economic development” and that “tourism has increased massively” as a result of the railway.*

Borders Railway is an outstanding example of how a railway can be transformational for local economies and communities, helping places flourish and become more dynamic and desirable to visit.

Successful case studies like Borders Rail provide an encouraging and inspiring blueprint for East West Rail to deliver a huge, positive legacy for residents, business and economies across the route.” – Beth West, CEO East West Railway Company