Passenger numbers for the new Borders Railway between Edinburgh Waverley and Tweedbank near Melrose have exceeded original estimates by almost a quarter in the first six months of operation.
From its opening last September through the end of March this year, there were 694,373 trips on the new railway — about 22% more than projected figures.
At Galashiels and Tweedbank, the Scottish Borders stations, demand for the new services has exceed expectations by more than 600%.
It is estimated that passenger trips will be maintained at 21% above expectations through to the end of the first year of operation.
The passenger numbers were welcomed by the Borders Railway Blueprint partnership, which seeks to maximise economic benefits from the new railway.
The Blueprint partnership is chaired by Scottish Enterprise, and includes Transport Scotland, VisitScotland, Scottish Government and the three local authority areas on the route — Scottish Borders, Midlothian and City of Edinburgh — as well as Abellio ScotRail.
Danny Cusick, chair of the Borders Railway Blueprint Leaders Group said: “With 126,350 trips more than anticipated in the first six months, it’s clear that there is demand for the new railway, even before the Blueprint partnership’s first phase of developments have been fully implemented.
“As part of these developments, the railway will open up new business and investment opportunities, connecting planned housing and mixed-use projects, business and industrial parks, and new visitor attractions.
“The recent announcement by global IT company CGI to locate a digital centre of excellence in the Scottish Borders which has the potential to create up to 200 new jobs is an encouraging early example of a significant investment decision linked to Borders Railway.”
Councillor David Parker, leader of Scottish Borders Council, said: “These are exciting times for the Scottish Borders with passenger numbers for the first six months highlighting the potential to create transformational change.
“The Central Borders Business Park and major visitor attraction for the Great Tapestry of Scotland are just two of the developments which will capitalise on this to encourage further growth.
“The passenger figures also provide a boost to the business case for extending the line to Carlisle and they will be considered carefully as part of the scoping exercise that is being commissioned.”