Mainline railways and tourism

By | Category: Travel news
poster for Borders railways

Proven to be of economic benefit for tourism when will new and improved rail services be considered in this light?

The House of Commons Select Committee on Transport has decided to offer 28 recommendations to the government on railway improvements. As it stands, the committee believes that the passenger is not receiving value for money. But nowhere does the report point out the value of railways to tourism and suggest improvements.

But will the government take any notice of this report? Will we hear anything more than the collective wringing of hands and the view that something must be done?  Will this news be so dead in a few days that people will have forgotten until the next “crisis” occurs?

Forget all the news about the impact of the railways on commuters, important and vital as that is. I want to concentrate on the impact of the railway as a supporter for tourism development. Millions still use the railway for short breaks, days out and to get to their summer holiday destination. Yet hardly do we ever have a report that considers those factors.

In fact there are a couple.

The Borders Railway that runs the thirty miles from Tweedbank to Edinburgh in Scotland has been running for just over a year. The Scottish Tourism Economic Assessment Monitor statistics compared the first half of 2016 to the same period the year before. It is the first time in 10 years that every category saw improvement. Whilst the report cannot definitely say that the Borders Railway is responsible for this tourism growth what else can be the source?

The original two carriage trains have had to be replaced by four carriage trains at certain times of the day as commuters have filled seats but tourists have helped fill seats outside the rush hour.

Scot Rail train

Scot Rail rpulling into Tweedbank. Now many services are more than the originally planned two carriage trains

In the Borders, the number has visitor days has risen by more than 27%; (much more than the average for Scotland) there has been a 20% rise in spend on food and drink; visitor spend is up by 16% and there has been an 8% increase in employment in tourism.

In Midlothian (the area through which the train travels after leaving the Borders) there has also been a marked improvement in visitor spend, accommodation and employment.

If neither is due in part at least to the Borders Railway someone needs to find an explanation and so far they haven’t.

Last September, the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development pointed out that tourism figures in the area had risen and particular attractions such as Abbotsford House, Sir Walter Scott’s home, had a 12% increase in visitor numbers.

I think the importance of the railways to tourism is proven. Will the Committee add this to its reporting so that we have some joined up realism when it comes to assessing the future of the railways?

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