Saturday, 26 June 2010

Another Scottish Public Transport Fiasco

Firstly we have the Edinburgh tram fiasco and now it's the Borders railway. What is it about Scottish transport projects? Why are the Scots unable to manage a tramline or a railway line? Is it because we 'export' many of our high-flying managers and those now in charge are second-rate? I think that must be the answer.

The libdems persuaded the Scottish government to fund a railway from Edinburgh to Tweedbank (not far south east of Galashiels). The cost of the project is £300 million.

It has now be reported that the benefit-to-cost ratio of the project has slipped over the past three years as estimates for house building in the Borders and passenger forecasts on the 35 mile route have been revised downwards. The line is due to be completed by 2014 and Transport Scotland, the government agency, which is overseeing the construction, has said the line would deliver a 20% return on investment - far lower than the 100% previously documented.

For some time I've stated that this railway link wasn't feasible. The town of Peebles is one of the largest towns in the Borders, yet this railway goes down the hypotenuse; completely ignoring Peebles which sits at the opposite angle. Peebles is continually expanding and, having friends there, I know a railway would be used by many who work in Edinburgh. Also Peebles is nearer to Edinburgh than any other well populated town on the route.

Although officials estimate the construction costs of building the route could be up to £295 million, as it is being financed and built by a consortium of private companies, the real cost to taxpayers is likely to be several times higher as repayments are made over the next 33 years.

For some reason the SNP government were persuaded to back this project. Their decision was certainly flawed. Of course, if Peebles had to be included then the length of the railway would have doubled as would have the cost, but at least the return would have been far greater.

I should clarify, the Edinburgh tram project is run by a branch of Edinburgh Council and not the main public transport organisation Transport Scotland. Shouldn't Scotland bring all these major projects under the one quango? Seems sensible to me and then perhaps we can persuade those excellent managers to stay in Scotland rather than take their skills abroad.


Macheath said...

Might I suggest a map for handy reference? It's an area I know well but readers in the overcrowded South East may not fully appreciate the geography.

Odd to think that pre-Beeching you could travel up to Edinburgh or along the Tweed valley to Berwick by local trains, yet they're publicising it as if this form of public transport never existed before.

subrosa said...

Macheath, I just couldn't get Google maps to do that, much as I tried. My screen grab was quite vague. Thanks for the suggestion though.

I did try to explain it as best as I could, but I'm sure someone will come up with a map of it all.

My apologies for not being able to produce one.

Macheath said...

My link above is a road route - detailed maps of the rail link(as opposed to schematics) don't seem to be available.

The only map I've found is attached to this 2007 article.

It all suggests to me they are still negotiating land acquisition between Gorebrdge and Stow, so I wouldn't hold your breath. I grew up among the farmers there; they'll be more than a match for Edinburgh's bureaucrats.

Macheath said...

Just for interest - here's a map of the pre-Beeching routes, looking interestingly familiar.

(Luckily the Urchin's on hand to tell me how to do the screen grab - and how to right-click a link and 'open in new tab' to get it full-size)

subrosa said...

Ah Macheath, thanks so much for your links. I well remember the Borders railway before the Beeching cuts. In fact I attended the last train which passed through Peebles in 1963 I think it was. Lots of tears and anger yet there was nothing the people could do about it,

Wish I had an Urchin around. Would take mine at least a week to help and loads of emails. :)

Dramfineday said...

Yes and as you meander down the A703 from Edinburgh to Peebles you will note with interest the remains of the original trackbed and better still as you wander around Peebles you will note the extensive trackbeds, bridges and tunnels that used to support a substantial railway network. Loanhead, Penicuik, Peebles would have been a sensible route extend that to Innerleithen, Galashiels, Melrose, Kelso, Coldstream, Berwick and at once we bring a lot of boder toons back into play. Link that to the tourist trade of Hill bikes, walking, fishing, golf and living in general and it could revitalise the area. Stop it Dram, you're off on a flight of fantasy again as it would mean joined up thinking

subrosa said...

That's it Dram, the line I thought would be sensible too. There was a substantial network around Peebles and also all the way south east. It certainly would have made a lot more sense and I can't understand why the libdems didn't push for it. The folk of Peebles would certainly have used it as a commuter train.

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