By Graeme Murray
Hospitality operators in the Scottish Borders have reported an upturn in business following the launch of the new Borders Railway line.
Bars, hotels, restaurants and tourism attractions all claim to have seen trade rise, with some businesses reporting a 50% increase.
The route, which connects Edinburgh, Midlothian, Galashiels and Tweedbank, opened on September 6.
And operators in the area told SLTN it has brought a boost to business.
Karen Craig, owner of Herges on the Loch in Tweedbank, said the bar and restaurant has seen “a substantial rise in trade” in the past month, with the route’s steam train packages said to have had a particular impact.
“It has had a very positive effect and we’ve seen a 50% increase in business,” said Craig.
“I think people are coming here for the food experience and something different from Edinburgh.
“We get a lot of customers coming in for lunch, but because they are travelling by train they can also enjoy a glass of wine.”
In Galashiels, bar and restaurant operators also said they had noticed a “huge difference” since the route opened.
“It definitely has helped trade,” said Michelle Douglas, partner at The Salmon Inn.
“It’s been really busy and the whole town is buzzing.
“Customers are coming in for food and drinks in large groups. A lot of the people are interested in the local ales.
“If it continues we will have to take on more staff.”
The new route doesn’t include a stop at Melrose, but businesses in the town also claimed to have enjoyed a trade boost.
Nick Henderson of Burts Hotel and Townhouse Hotel said the railway link had “exceeded expectations”.
“It’s been really encouraging, especially with the steam train, which brings 500 or 600 people to the area who have a few hours to spare,” said Henderson.
“Alcohol sales have recently taken a dip, but now all the day trippers are having a few pints or a glass of wine and going home on the train.
“All in all the line has been fantastic for the Townhouse and Burts.”
Jordan Sykes, manager at the Ship Inn in Melrose, said the new railway had helped boost business during the week as well as weekends.
“It’s really improved our weekends and during the day there’s a lot more business,” said Sykes.
“I think there’s a lot of hill walkers who get off at Tweedbank, go for a walk and then stop off for a few pints before getting the train home.
“The streets are a lot busier during the week too; I think people come down on the train from Edinburgh for a day out.”
VisitScotland said tourism businesses in the Scottish Borders and Midlothian have reported “significant growth” since the line opened.
One of the area’s most popular attractions, Abbotsford House, reported an 18.4% uplift in visitor numbers on 2014, leading to an extension of the attraction’s summer opening hours into October.