The Borders Railway

The 50 km-long Borders Railway between Edinburgh and Tweedbank, which was re-opened in September 2015, is a good analogue for the Aberystwyth to Carmarthen railway line. Its principal effects have been felt in the tourist industry, but there have also been significant economic benefits to the immediate hinterland and to the Borders area as a whole. Passenger numbers for the first year of operation (2015-16) were 1,267,599, almost double the official forecast when the railway was opened, and this figure increased to 1,387,819 in the second year.

The Scottish Tourism Economic Assessment Monitor (STEAM) statistics for the Borders region compared the first half of 2016 to the same period the year before, and these showed that the number of visitor days in hotels/bed & breakfasts had risen by 27%; there was a 20% rise in visitor spend on food and drink; visitor spend on accommodation was up 17%; and the number of days visitors stayed in the Borders increased by almost 11%. Collectively there was an overall increase in visitor spend of 16%, and an estimated 8% increase in employment directly related to tourism.

Data from the Border Railway Year 2 Evaluation, 2018, indicated that 15% of users had moved to the region because of the railway, and 52% of those interviewed who had changed their jobs cited the railway as a key factor. Furthermore, it was estimated that around 36,000 car journeys per year were saved because of the railway, while there were 14,000 fewer bus journeys. Of those interviewed during the course of the Transport Scotland survey, 25% stated that they would not have visited the region had it not been for the railway.

The opening of the Borders railway has given a significant boost to the housing market in the region, with the number of house sales increasing by up to 48% in some areas, while 10,000 new homes are set to be built near the rail corridor. In addition, 150 hectares of land adjacent to the railway have been designated for commercial use. At Tweedbank, the southern terminus of the line, a new Central Borders Business Park is being established and plans are in hand for a hotel and retail outlets adjacent to the new station. Indeed, so successful has the Borders Railway project been that funding has now been secured for a Feasibility Study (£10 million from the British and Scottish Governments) to examine the prospects of extending the line southward by 110 km, thereby completing the old Waverley Route through to Carlisle.