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Target reached ahead of schedule.
The Borders Railway has welcomed its 500,000th passenger in a little over four months of service.
This puts the popular service over 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 in September 2015, connects the Borders and Midlothian with the Scottish rail network.
Derek Mackay MSP, Minister for Transport and Islands and Phil Verster, Managing Director of the ScotRail Alliance celebrated the landmark with awarding the 500,000th passenger, Sarah Eno, with a season ticket.
Phil Verster commented:
"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. 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. We look forward to welcoming everyone on board."
Mr Mackay said:
"The Scottish Government has a commitment to provide reliable and affordable public transport links, to boost economic growth. The Borders Railway is a key example of how this translates into tangible benefits to our regions.
"The popularity of the Borders Railway is evident in the groundswell of interest there has been since the opening and by the continuing popularity of the services as we reach half a million passengers well ahead of schedule.
"In addition to strong passenger demand, local businesses are reporting increased footfall and extended trading hours since September, which is testament to the positive differences that the £353 million investment is making to the economy of the local area.
"The Scottish Government is also taking forward a comprehensive plan to capitalise on the benefits that the railway has brought to the region with additional facilities such as the rollout of fibre optic high speed broadband currently being delivered."
Exact figures between 6 September and Saturday 23 January 2016 were 537,327.
The Transport Scotland Business Case for Borders Railway, published in November 2012, predicted first year annual return passenger numbers of 647,136.