A FORMER Borders MP has claimed rail chiefs may have underestimated the potential of the railway's return to the region.

His comments follow complaints over a lack of seats, ticket machines and parking spaces on the new line between Tweedbank and Edinburgh.

David Steel, now Lord Steel of Aikwood, was on board the Royal steam train for the official opening of the new Borders Railway by the Queen on Wednesday.

However, the former Scottish Parliament Presiding Officer, who campaigned against the closure of the Waverley Line in 1969, revealed he did not receive the red carpet treatment when he returned the following day.

Lord Steel told the Border Telegraph: “Having enjoyed the privilege of travel on the first train and then on the Royal train, it was a particular pleasure to become a fare-paying passenger last Thursday when I had to go to a lunchtime meeting in Edinburgh. Had I gone as usual by car it would have taken me longer and cost me at least a fiver to park in addition to the cost of fuel. As it was I drove 10 minutes from Selkirk to Tweedbank and using my senior railcard got an off-peak return for just £7.40 – what a bargain!”

But he added: “The car park at Tweedbank was almost full with some cars already parked on the roadway – has the potential use of the new service been underestimated?”

Border Telegraph:

Ryan McGee shared this picture of an overcrowded train on the Borders Railway.

Passengers have reportedly been left on the platform as packed trains struggled to cope with the demand for the new service in its first week of operation.

But Lord Steel revealed rail chiefs could introduce some simple measures to ease the strain.

“It was a sunny day,” he said, “but if they extend the car park it would be sensible to provide a canopy alongside the staff building and platform fence so that people would have only a short sprint through rain to their vehicles.

“There was only one ticket machine at Tweedbank, so half the queue had to pay on board. The friendly conductor said the point had already been relayed to Scottish Rail – there needs to be at least three.

“The taped announcements said we were calling at 'Stowe' not 'Stow', and again the conductor said this howler had been remedied on some of the trains but not yet on our one.

“It would be good to have either a trolley service on board or a kiosk at Tweedbank, and a rail official on the Royal train told me they were looking for approaches to provide coffee/soft drinks.

“I missed the train I intended to catch on return and waited patiently on the platform at the sparkling revamped Waverley station for the next one – but there are very few seats on the platform, and others like me had to stand and wait.

“The train was nine minutes late arriving and three minutes late on return, mostly lost on the main East Coast route outside Edinburgh, not the loops which seem to work well.”

But he added: “Is it not truly wonderful to be able to make these teething-trouble comments?”