RAIL campaigners have urged bidders for the new ScotRail franchise to ensure that Class 158 diesel trains to be deployed on the Borders Railway in 2015 are refurbished in line with the treatment given to trains serving the scenic Highland lines radiating from Inverness.
In letters to all five bidders, the Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR) says that the train sets – to be ‘cascaded’ to the Borders from Glasgow-area suburban routes which are currently being electrified – must be refurbished to provide “a service that will convince Borders people to use the train in large numbers”.
CBR chair, Simon Walton, commented:
“We had hoped to see the inter-city Class 170 units deployed on the Borders Railway, but it would appear that 158s are now to be used.
“If that is the case, it is absolutely essential that these are properly refurbished like those serving the scenic Highland routes.
“That means brighter interiors, appropriate luggage space and bicycle facilities, and a good seat-to-window match to allow the scenery to be fully appreciated by visitors.
“First impressions will be crucial for passengers who are new to rail.
“First Minister, Alex Salmond, underscored the potential attractions of the line last August, in Hawick, when he extolled the ‘stunning scenery’ of the new railway and indicated he was committed to ensuring ‘that people have an unforgettable experience travelling along this incredible rail route’.
“That means we must have the best possible trains to live up to this deservedly star billing.”
 CBR sample letter appended (sent to all five bidding companies: Abelio, Arriva, First, MTR and National Express)
 The Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR), launched in 1999, is one of Britain ’s most successful grassroots rail campaigns. CBR’s key aim was realised on 6th November 2012 when the Scottish Government’s Transport Minister Keith Brown announced that Transport Scotland and Network Rail had concluded a deal to construct the new Borders Railway from Edinburgh to Tweedbank – bringing trains back in 2015 after an absence of more than 45 years. See www.campaignforbordersrail.org .
CBR lobbying was also crucial to securing key enhancements to the original official railway specification:
(i) Inclusion of a station at Stow in the rail project
(ii) Saving the 1849 Stow station building from demolition
(iii) Redesign of Tweedbank station to accommodate long tourist charter trains
(iv) A franchise requirement for ScotRail to accommodate charters in the timetable
(v) Pedestrian waiting time slashed at the Galashiels road crossing from rail to bus stations
(vi) A robust connection from the first train of the day into the 06.25 Edinburgh-London train.
END OF RELEASE
Appendix – bidders letter
TO: Bidders for the ScotRail Franchise
The Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR) welcomes the enthusiastic interest shown by your company in tendering for the ScotRail Franchise 2015. We also appreciate your approach to us, and CBR would be happy to endorse any initiative that helps provide a service commensurate with the economic and regenerative importance of the Borders.
As you will be aware, the Borders Railway project is the most significant material addition to the franchise. CBR has been vigorously promoting the line since our inception in 1999, pursuing the best possible railway for the Borders throughout that time. We would draw your attention to a number of issues we believe are key to the success of the line, from the viewpoint of all stakeholders.
Rolling stock for the line should be as appropriate to the market as possible. We note the proposed use of cascaded inner-suburban Class 158 units, which have not benefitted from the refurbishment applied to Inverness-based units.
First impressions will be crucial for passengers who are new to rail, and we urge you to consider the benefits of, inter alia, appropriate luggage space and bicycle facilities. As in the Inverness-based units, a good seat-to-window match will be very important for the tourist / leisure market.
The First Minister underscored the potential attractions of the line in this respect last August, in Hawick, when he extolled the ‘stunning scenery’ of the new railway and indicated he was committed to ensuring ‘that people have an unforgettable experience travelling along this incredible rail route’.
It seems to us that refurbished units are a minimum requirement for a service that will convince Borders people to use the train in large numbers.
CBR has lobbied extensively on issues of reliability. An outstanding issue remains a lack of capacity between Edinburgh Waverley and Newcraighall, including the single track Portobello Junction.
This is an obstacle to faster Borders journey times and a potential source of service disruption. We urge your company to commit to working with industry partners to secure infrastructure enhancements on this vital section.
We seek to establish a Community Rail Partnership for the line, and would welcome the cooperation and assistance of your company.
We are particularly keen to see a commitment to work with local partners in providing added value for all stakeholders. Our proposals include a small Borders railway museum, utilising the former station buildings in Stow, and close cooperation with the tourism industry at large.
Our longer-term goal is extension of the line south from Tweedbank to Hawick and beyond, and we would welcome the stated support of your company.
Simon Walton (chair)
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