The Anonymous Widower

Where Does The Borders Railway Go Next?

My Borders correspondent, who lives near Selkirk, says that the Borders Railway has been generally well received. Certainly if you search Google News for Borders Railway, you don’t find many problems or complaints, except one about the singing of the National Anthem for the Queen.

A friend in Edinburgh has just told me, that the trains are too crowded at times. So what’s new? New railways are always crowded, especially if they fulfil a need.

The most common articles on the web, are ones like this one from the Border Telegraph, entitled Next Stop Hawick….

So what will effect this line in the next few years and what do I think will happen?

The Me Too Effect

Now that Galashiels has a reliable half-hourly service to Edinburgh, I suspect that the inhabitants South of Tweedbank, will say that if Galashiels and Tweedbank can have this, why can’t Melrose and Hawick?


Cross Border Co-operation

The Borders area of Scotland and the neighbouring area of England are very similar and probably have the same strengths, problems and needs.

In some ways they are very economically linked now.

  • Carlisle is economically tied to the Scottish Borders for shopping and transport links.
  • Newcastle is a major airport for the area.
  • There is even a rail service between Glasgow and Newcastle, that goes via Kilmarnock, Dumfries, Hexham and the Metro Centre.
  • Area rail tickets for North West England include Lockerbie.
  • Carlisle and Newcastle are the two major places to catch trains to the South, unless you go North to Edinburgh and Glasgow..

Surely this togetherness should be built on to develop the Borderlands, provided the politicians can be kept out of their way, in their offices in London and Edinburgh.

Increasing Railway Capacity Between England And Scotland

At present, the East Coast Main Line and the West Coast Main Line do not provide enough capacity between England and Scotland, for both passengers and freight.

Tourism And Other Economic Effects

I live in the Dalston area of Hackney, which is an area that has been uplifted by the creation of the London Overground from the rather decrepit railways that used to run through the area.

Unless you have lived through the process, most people will not understand how regular trains, running on a frequency of at least two an hour, can bring economic benefits to an area.

The Borderlands, probably have an economic profile not unlike the areas of East Anglia away from the large towns and cities that I know well.

  • Both areas are ringed by a series of large towns and cities
  • There is a lot of farming.
  • There are a lot of tourism-related businesses of all sizes.
  • In the summer, visitors take days out into the areas.
  • There is a certain amount of specialist manufacture.
  • Housing is being developed for those who have retired, who live and work locally and who commute to major towns and cities nearby.

All of these activities will increase the need for better transport links to the major cities that ring the areas.

The latest East Anglian Rail Franchise will mandate the franchisee to provide much better services all over the area and especially on the branch lines.

I can’t believe that the areas on both sides of the Border would not be worth developing in a similar way to that proposed for East Anglia.

Extending The Borders Railway To Melrose, Hawick And Carlisle

Scottish Borders politicians are all in favour of this extension, as are probably the good citizens of the area. My Borders correspondent and his family certainly appear to be.

Just as I have seen an economic uplift in Hackney because of the London Overground, I think it would be unlikely that the Borders Railway running through Melrose and Hawick, would not increase economic activity in the area.

This extension would certainly happen if Scotland stayed in the United Kingdom, as in some ways, this reopening, would help develop tourism in the wider area of the whole Borderlands, the Lake District and North Yorkshire.

Carlisle is probably the big winner in this activity and becomes a city with important or picturesque railway lines going everywhere.

The Borders Railway provides the missing link in the railways of the Borderlands.

So when the Scottish politicians discuss the project, they should take into account, the positive affects a complete line would have on England!

Should The Borders Railway Be Electrified?

This question could legitimately by asked about all the other lines meeting at Carlisle, that are not electrified.

But as Carlisle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle , Preston and Skipton are all electrified, I suspect all of the Carlisle lines have enough electrification to be run by modern four-car Aventra IPEMU trains, charging their batteries where overhead power is available and running on batteries as needed.

Some of the lines, including possibly the Borders Railway, are probably ready for Aventra IPEMUs now, with a bit of modification to platforms, track and signalling! Some like probably the Cumbria Coast Line would need some electrification or other means to charge the batteries en route.

So the answer to the electrification question must be yes, if Aventra IPEMUs are used.

But it would create a local railway network, as good as any in Europe, in an environmentally-friendly but totally affordable way.

It would be a showpiece of British technology and an attraction to rail enthusiasts from all over the world.

The network also connects to four World Heritage Sites and the Lake District, Hadrian’s Wall and the major cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle.

Would An Extended Borders Railway Provide Extra Capacity Between England And Scotland?

The Borders Railway has a limited number of paths for trains and when a steam special is run, one of the diesel multiple units has to give up its slot. Read various criticisms on Wikipedia.

My scheduling experience, does suggest to me, that if the line was run by the faster and better accelerating electric trains, including Aventra IPEMUs, that this might create some extra capacity on the line.

Unless the line was fully electrified, it wouldn’t be a route for using the electric trains that run up the East and West Coast Main Lines.

But it would be able to take services run by Aventra IPEMUs or any diesel-hauled passenger or freight trains.

These capacity arguments would also apply to the Glasgow and South Western Line, so with a bit of selective electrification and Aventra IPEMUs, some extra capacity might be squeezed in.

I certainly think that a railway time-tabling expert could certainly find some extra capacity.

But it might be overnight freight trains?

Are There Any Branches To The Borders Railway That Could Be Created?

The original Waverley route had several branches including to Peebles and Hexham.

Midlothian Council have also thought about a branch to Penicuik.

Extra branches are up to the economics and the politicians.


In my view, not to extend the Borders Railway to Carlisle by way of Melrose and Hawick, would be total stupidity.

The problem is that despite being totally in Scotland, extending the Borders Railway to Carlisle, has substantial benefits for England too!

What will Nicola think?







October 2, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Iron Lady Rides Again

I don’t think I saw Margaret Thatcher in a debate like last night’s, although I did hear her many times on the radio during Prime Minister’s Questions.

I was speaking to a Scot this morning, and we both felt that Nicola Sturgeon has a lot of Margaret Thatcher about her.

I’ll probably be sent to The Tower for treason or whatever the Scots do, for such a thought!

April 17, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Newtonian Politics

Isaac Newton was a great man of many facets. To me though as an Control Engineer, his most important work is his three laws of motion.

The First Law states that every body continues in its state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line unless acted on by an external force.

In real life it is Newton’s version of the old maxim – If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The Second Law states that the rate of change of mass times velocity in a body is proportional to the force applied.

Basically, in real life this means that the harder you push something the more it moves the way you want it to.

The Third Law states every action on a body has an equal and opposite reaction.

Newton wrote his laws as they applied to mechanical systems, but they also can be applied to people systems in a philosophical way.

If you look at the British economy for the last fifty years, two of the worst times were the Oil Crisis of  1973 and the Banking Crisis of 2008. Massive external forces distorted a British economic system, that was sitting reasonably happily in a state of rest as defined by the First Law. The application of the external force was a superb example of Newton’s Second Law, which caused the economy to move fast in the wrong direction.

In recent years too, the attacks of September 11th, 2001, the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011

In some cases the reaction of politicians the world over to these and other crises only made things worse. If we take September 11th, the United States had the moral high-ground after the atrocities and could have applied sensible policies to make sure that such attacks never happened again. Instead they illustrated Newton’s Third Law brilliantly, by in revenge invading Afghanistan and Iraq, which of course provoked the opposite reaction of Islamic terrorism we now see all over the world. If you poke a hornets nest, you get stung. Or in the case of the September 11th attacks, the rest of the world does.

So how do Newton’s Laws affect British politics and in particular this coming election?

I’ll use two simple examples from London.

The London Fire Brigade has closed ten fire stations in order to save money to help the city recover from the recession of 2008. There have been protests and local objections, but there has not been one story in the past year, of destruction or even death caused by the cuts.

Transport for London over the last couple of years, have swiftly moved totally away from cash-based ticketing to one that relies on contactless cards of one sort or another with the closure of lots of ticket offices. Politicians protested loudly at the announcement but there have not been any stories since about passengers protesting because they couldn’t get home or something similar. In fact the only comment, I’ve had from staff, is one off-duty bus driver, who said he’s convinced attacks on staff have reduced significantly.

I think that Londoners, staff and eventually politicians have realised that although the changes are massive, most have only been affected in a small way, so their reaction to the changes has been proportionately small. Probably the worst affected group are firemen, who’ve been made redundant and I suspect, that London’s booming economy has allowed those who need a new job to get one, as protests have been surprising by their absence.

I think that these two examples illustrate a facet of the British people. We may moan a bit about something we don’t like, but when the new system beds in and it doesn’t effect us too much, we accept it as a sensible policy. On the other hand, if something is manifestly wrong, like the Second Gulf War, we protest until the end.

People may complain about the parties being too similar, but as most politicians are decent reasonable people, who see the bigger picture, the middle way is often chosen by everybody.

In this current election there has been a defining theme, that could determine who is the next Prime Minister.

In the seven-party television debate, Nicola Sturgeon, showed the English a face of Scots, that they don’t like. All of the thoughts from north of the border is worrying the English that any Labour dog, will be wagged by a Scottish Nationalist tail. So will this cause a drop in Labour’s vote in England?

The poll today in The Sunday Times shows that Tory support is hardening. So has Newton’s Third Law taken control?

If Labour is to get the most seats they have got to convince a large number of house-owning working middle-class voters to switch allegiance.

But will these floating votes go for a party that is saying it will use their ISAs and other measures to fund and ease more house building, which will depress the value of their own properties?

Labour policy makers obviously don’t know that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, as many of their policies, as do those of UKIP and the Nationalists, only appeal to a very committed majority. Tony Blair’s strength in the polls, was that he mobilised the non-Labour voters to vote for Nulabor.

David Cameron on the other hand, generally kept out of the squabbles in the seven-party debate, which was a classic stance to give a message compatible with Newton’s First Law.

It is an interesting problem, which will only be solved in the very British way at the ballot box in a few weeks time.


April 5, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , , | 1 Comment