Borders Railway: an Edinburgh perspective

The Borders Railway has been about so much more than simply transporting commuters up to Edinburgh or allowing tourists to access the beautiful landscapes and historic sights further south. The railway has been about stimulating the economy of the central Borders and the surrounding area. Transport links are key when it comes to growing a business – as the three local authority leaders discuss in their blog posts.

Councillor Adam McVey sets out the importance of strengthened transport links between Edinburgh and the Borders.

It’s hard to believe that a whole two years have passed since the momentous reopening of the Borders Railway, bringing the people of the Scottish Borders, Midlothian and Edinburgh that bit closer together.

As one of the most ambitious rail projects in Britain in more than a century, years of partnership working between the Councils involved led up to its completion, demonstrating the impact this collaborative approach can have.

It was within this spirit that the Edinburgh and South East Region City Deal was signed this summer. By realising the potential of the region as a whole, the deal aims to build on strengths in areas of knowledge, technology and creativity through increased innovation across a variety of sectors, driving investment and addressing inclusion.

There’s no doubt that developing transport links across the region will be extremely beneficial to these ambitions and now, two years and 2.6m passengers on, we’re already beginning to see the impact the reopened route is having.

By improving access to the region from the city centre, the Borders Railway is helping to increase housing provision for those who wish to build a life around the capital by providing a high-capacity sustainable transport option for people and also opening up a new talent pool to businesses along the route.

There’s no doubt that better connections reap economic benefits, catalysing development in each of the local authorities and enabling better collaboration between businesses across the region. We’re already exploring the potential for a network of business incubators alongside the route, including a base in Edinburgh, harnessing the entrepreneurial activities of all three areas.

As well as creating greater links to commercial and industrial centres, the railway is providing more opportunities for people to experience the cultural, leisure and heritage attractions in each of the areas. A recent user survey showed that more than a third of Borders Railway users were on a day trip, exploring the wealth on offer throughout Edinburgh, Midlothian and The Borders, from Edinburgh Castle to Jedburgh Castle, Rosslyn Chapel to Coldingham Bay.

By getting people onto the train, the new route is helping Edinburgh to achieve its vision of a cleaner, greener city too. That 85% of survey respondents agreed it encouraged a shift from the car to public transport shows that it’s having a positive effect - around 40,000 car journeys have been saved in the first year. Our aim is to reduce the volume of traffic and therefore congestion on Edinburgh’s streets by investing in public transport, improved pedestrian access and better cycling infrastructure – and an efficient, integrated rail system feeds directly into this.

While it’s still relatively early for the newly reopened Borders Railway, its benefits are already becoming apparent. There’s still work to be done in terms of regeneration along the route, and there is a great deal of potential yet to be exploited, but I look forward to seeing this major development continue to profit the surrounding communities in years to come.