Waverley route closure based on “guesswork”

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COSTINGS produced by Westminster officials to justify the closure of the Waverley rail route were based on “guesswork”, it has been claimed.

The 98 mile line, which connected Edinburgh and Carlisle, was controversially closed in 1969.

But newly uncovered documents reveal that figures produced by the Ministry of Transport to justify the closure were based on a generic formula rather than the actual cost of operating the route.

And critics argue that the formula grossly inflated the supposed burden of the route on the public purse.

The documents were uncovered by rail consultant David Spaven, who gained access to the private papers of Elliot of Harwood, the leader of a 1968 House of Lords debate on the route.

The new line will run from Edinburgh to Tweedbank
The new line will run from Edinburgh to Tweedbank

 

His official annual cost of subsidising the passenger service between Edinburgh and Hawick was estimated at £220,000.

But a fresh estimate from Mr Spaven has put the figure at £119,000, which would have allowed to line to remain ín operation.

He said: “By their own admission, the Ministry of Transport and British Rail, with the vast array of analytical tools at their disposal, had evidently leant heavily on guesswork in determining the fate of the Edinburgh-Hawick railway.

“It confirms what rail campaigners and the Scottish Office suspected at the time, that the route was sacrificed on the basis of dubious cost and revenue projections.”

Mr Spaven uncovered letters between Westminster officials, stating that a formula had been used to calculate the cost of running the Waverley route, rather than calculating the actual cost of its operation.
One letter, from Lord Shepherd, reads: “It is only possible to guess at the number of people who would use a truncated service and therefore at the total value of the income to be derived from the service.”

The decision to close the route was made by Dr Richard Beeching, then chairman of British Railways, in 1969.

But after decades of lobbying a 35 mile section of the original line from Edinburgh to Tweedbank will reopen in September.

The new line has cost £295m, and will serve four new stations in Midlothian and three in the Scottish borders.

Trains will run every half hour in the day, and in 2014 Alex Salmond estimated that 1m passengers could be using the service every year within five years of it reopening.

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