Wider benefits of new railway to be assessed

At peak construction, 1,100 employees were working on the Borders Railway.
At peak construction, 1,100 employees were working on the Borders Railway.

A report on the economic benefits to the Borders from the construction of the new £354m railway linking Tweedbank to Edinburgh is to be presented to councillors.

“There has been a bit of a problem getting Borders-specific information because the construction project is not yet completed,” said Councillor Stuart Bell, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for economic development.

He added: “We will get more information when Network Rail hands over the completed project in June and this will be reported to our executive committee.”

However, Mr Bell told last week’s full council meeting that the wider benefit of the construction of the railway, due to open in September, was already evident in the £82m worth of contracts which were awarded in the project’s first year – from April, 2013 to April 2014 – of which 21%, worth £18m, had gone to companies with a base in Edinburgh, Midlothian or the Borders.

He said 148 (40%) of the sub-contractors had been Scottish companies and that, at peak construction, 1,100 employees had been working on the line.

Ten of the train drivers recruited by Scotrail were from the Borders.

Regarding the future, Mr Bell cited the Scottish Government-led Borders Railway Blueprint, a two-year funding programme to push up the wider economic benefits by ensuring the line stimulated investment, business growth, new employment and an increase in visitors.

“The blueprint aims to increase the number of passengers to one million a year by 2020 from the original business case estimate of 650,000, which would push up the net economic impact from £38.7m to £53.7m to transform the economy of the Borders, Midlothian and the wider city region.”

Meanwhile, the relationship between the railway and bus services throughout the Borders region will be the subject of a separate report to councillors.