While there are numerous issues with services on the Borders Railway, the line remains a significant asset for our region.
The railway represents what is possible when campaigners, politicians and the wider community come together.
Working with my SNP colleagues at Holyrood, I think we’re also starting to see a range of welcome investment in the Borders. My hope is that the historic reality that the Borders gets a raw deal when it comes to investment will become a thing of the past. I think we’re ready to turn a corner.
But the fact remains that the recent spate of delays and cancelations on the Borders Railway has caused much exasperation.
A year on, after decades of waiting, there’s an understandable concern that, yet again, the importance of a service to the Borders just isn’t recognised further up the food chain.
Although transport is a devolved matter my office is very aware of the range of issues constituents have raised about the service. Many of these seem to demonstrate that the route is not a high priority. Whether it’s cancellations due to staffing issues, the use of ageing rolling stock, or an inadequate number of carriages causing great discomfort for commuters, the welcome that the railway received locally doesn’t seem to have been reciprocated in kind.
These are surely not complex problems to remedy at an operational level. As my colleague Christine Grahame MSP outlined in a detailed letter – there were eight days in August alone in which customers using the line experienced significant cancellations and delays.
I think it is vitally important that ScotRail address these issues, especially given the level of support for the restoration of the historic Waverley Line to Hawick and Carlisle. It’s important this isn’t jeopardised.
Good quality infrastructure is the most basic building block for economic development. It’s certainly one of my priorities – as chair of the A7 Action Group and as the SNP’s Digital spokesperson at Westminster securing better infrastructure that allows business and communities to thrive is a central focus in my work as an MP.
Another ongoing task is dealing with the fallout from Brexit as the UK government takes us into uncharted territory. This is a matter of particular regret given that the Borders, as part of a new South of Scotland region, was about to be reclassified as new statistical unit within the European Union.
It’s been estimated that the Scottish Borders would be eligible for between £15-20 million of European structural funding on the basis of this change. This money could have been invested in boosting our economic potential.
As the realities of Brexit begin to emerge, it’s vital that rural regions join together to ensure that the positive impact of EU funding is matched by the UK. While many in the current Tory government believe that low tax and low regulation are the secret to economic success – we need to stand together to make the case for investment as the real driver of sustainable growth.