More than half a million passengers have used the new Borders Railway between Edinburgh and Tweedbank near Melrose in its first four-and-a-half months of service, the Scottish Government said.
These numbers mean the service is more than 20% ahead of forecast, with passenger numbers expected to continue to exceed expectations throughout the rest of the year.
The £353 million railway, which reopened last September, connects the Scottish Borders and Midlothian to the Scottish rail network.
Derek Mackay MSP, Minister for Transport, said the Scottish Government is taking forward a plan to capitalise on the benefits that the railway has brought to the region with new facilities such as the rollout of fibre optic high speed broadband.
“We are less than five months into delivering the new Borders services and it’s clear that the Borders Railway is a huge success story for Scotland and for the rail industry,” said Phil Verster, managing director of the ScotRail Alliance.
“We had a sense in September that Borders was going to be popular but no-one expected us to reach 500,000 passengers so quickly.
“We had a huge surge of interest during September and October and, since then, passenger numbers have stabilised.
“Demand is still high — consistently over 20,000 journeys per week — but we are in a better position now to understand our peaks and troughs and when we need to add extra carriages to our services.
“This year, our focus is on further establishing the service and helping the communities of Midlothian and the Scottish Borders to make the most of this huge economic opportunity.
“We expect to see a big uplift in tourists during Easter and summer and during the big events such as the Melrose 7s, the Borders book festival and the Common Ridings.”
The exact number of passengers between September 6 and January 23 was 537,327.