Forecasters deny old lines a second chance
I was very interested and encouraged to read about the traffic on the newly opened Borders Railway ( RAIL 802).
However, this causes me some alarm. Once again the people who drew up the forecasts for the line are not just wrong, they’re absolutely nowhere near the actual number of people using the line.
This seems to have happened on every re-opening, so why do we bother with any forecasts? Why do we not just get on and re-open the lines where there is a good gut feeling that it will be right to do so?
I was involved in the re-opening of the Robin Hood Line (I carried out the structural survey on Kirkby-in-Ashfield tunnel), and if memory serves me correctly the forecast was for 14 passengers per trip! I believe the service started with a single car unit every two hours. When it opened to Mansfield it required a two-car unit every hour and four cars on a Saturday. I think the same thing has happened on all the other lines that have been re-opened.
One would have thought that after getting things so wrong once or twice, the forecasters might have learned something by now, but obviously not.
This brings me to the next (obvious) point: how many lines have not been re-opened because of these hopeless forecasts?
Two that spring to mind are Beverley to Hull, which is crying out for re-opening as the alternative road (A1079) is hopelessly inadequate, and the East Lincs Line from Boston back through Louth to Grimsby.
Since the latter line was closed the whole of East Lincolnshire is dead. There are no decent roads to the coast east of the A1 in either Lincolnshire or Yorkshire (there are 72 bends in the road between Louth and Sutton on Sea, in barely 15 miles), and at weekends what roads there are get choked.
I travelled to Norwich recently, and it took nearly five hours to travel the 125 miles. There were seven miles of dual carriageway and the rest were like cart tracks.
Hopefully the forecasters might have learned something, but I very much doubt it. In any event, I don’t suppose they will be able to re-open these lines now - they will probably be inhabited by rare great crested newts! Doug Hewson, North Lincs
ScotRail 158714 arrives at Stow on the first day of operation on the new railway from Edinburgh to Tweedbank in September 2015. Passenger numbers on the Borders Railway have exceeded all expectations, and reader Doug Hewson thinks that success could be replicated elsewhere.