Demographics of the Borders Railway


The Borders Railway opened last week – a 30 mile new railway running between Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders, which was for the last fifty years the largest populated region in the UK without a railway connection. The railway largely follows the route of the Waverley Line, which used to connect Edinburgh to Carlisle via the Borders (Galashiels and Hawick) before it was axed in the 1960s. The new line is highlighted in the map above, as are the small stations that lead to central Edinburgh at the end of the route. Galashiels is the penultimate station, with Tweedbank, a suburb of Galashiels, being the terminus.

This post looks at the pre-opening (i.e. Census 2011) commuting patterns between the western Borders towns, both those now connected to the new railway and those nearby but not linked, and Edinburgh. It’s a commute pattern that is personally interesting to me as I have childhood memories of waiting various “Munros” buses to come over the hills from the Borders, to get into Edinburgh. It also looks at the relative deprivation scores and potentially related census characteristics, between the towns.

The graphics here are from our newly launched DataShine Scotland Commute which shows travel-to-work flows as straight-line origin/destination maps – it should be noted they don’t include any transnational commutes, e.g. from the Borders towns into Carlisle in England. For that, you need the DataShine Region Commute. The Borders council area is shaded in blue.

Here are four maps from towns (and surrounding areas), in the Borders region, near each other and approximately equidistant to Edinburgh, showing the flows out to work from people living in those areas (red) and flows in to work there from people living outside (blue). The four places I’m showing are, from west to east, Peebles, Innerleithen, Galashiels and Earlston.



Galashiels North:

Earlston & surrounding area:

Notice the odd one out?

Galashiels, the one of the four to which the new Borders Railway now connects Edinburgh to shows a significantly smaller level of commuting activity (as of the 2011 Census) to Edinburgh, than the other three areas, all statistical areas having approximately equal populations, and which are approximately the same distance from Edinburgh (an 45-minute drive or an hour-long bus journey). You can see an interactive version for all four, and indeed anywhere else in Scotland, here. Instead, it shows most commuting activity remaining within the Border valleys. It has a much weaker social connection to Scotland’s capital city.

N.B. In Earlston’s case, the small population in the town means that local rural communities are also included in its data point. Conversely, Galashiels’ large population is split into three, I’ve chosen the northern one which is a little closer to Edinburgh and also likely includes Stow, a small village to the north and the next stop on the new Borders Railway. The other Galashiels areas are broadly similar in terms of their commuting patterns.

Looking at DataShine Scotland which looks instead at the “static” aggregated small-area Census data rather than the flows above, we can begin to understand more about the demographics of each of the four towns and why Galashiels Edinburgh links are weaker. Galashiels’ population is generally younger and less likely to be married. People of Galashiels are also less likely to declare themselves of being of “very good health” than the other three areas. A younger, less healthy population is potentially indicative of a more deprived area, this is confirmed via mapping the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) 2011. Galashiels has both more and less deprived areas (red and green), but stands out against Peebles, Innerleithen and Earlston, who are generally green/yellow and so do not have a significant deprived area.

So perhaps poorer Galashiels, having little existing interaction with affluent Edinburgh, stands more to gain from the new, regular and fast connection to Scotland’s capital city, and that the new connection will, if it is used well, likely have a significant social impact on Galashiels and its fortunes, more so than would be gained from improving the other Borders towns. Renewed railway lines, as a method to transform the wealth of areas, is likely demonstrated by the dramatic effect on fortunes and house prices along the East London line in north-east London, following the reinstatement of the railway line there, and perhaps Galashiels and the surrounding areas will also see a step-change in the years to come?

Map data Copyright OpenStreetMap contributors 2015. Census data from NRS, Crown Copyright and database right 2015.

Holiday Homes?


The south-west is known as a place where there are many second homes. In some villages, so many of the homes are empty for much of the year, or are simply holiday homes, that living there can seem even quieter than you would expect.

Above is Newquay, the capital of surfing in the south-west and a place that shows a huge variation the proportion of houses “with no usual resident” as you move across the town from east to west.

“Prime Central London” is a strange place, where the super-wealthy buy homes but then don’t necessarily live in them. The boundaries of Prime Central London can be seen quite sharply – with the proportion of homes that are often empty falling away quickly as soon as soon as “real London” is encountered.

Interactive version.


Cycling to Work

Cycling to work is on the increase but is at very low levels in most places in the UK – and there are very wide variations, even across towns and cities of similar size.

Bristol (above) and London both see zones of high usage – typically in inner city suburbs popular with students and graduates:


Cambridge has near universal popularity for cycling, except right in the city centre where everything is in walking distance:


Luton is close by, and similar to, Cambridge, but virtually no one cycles, in any part of the town:


You can see the cycling map for your local area here.

London Houseshares


London is a significant destination for many people at various lifestages. One particularly popular inflow is university graduates looking for a place to live as they start their first career-minded job in the capital – coming from the other 100 or so universities in the UK outside London, or from Europe or elsewhere.

It is often a rush to find somewhere to live, as it’s hard to get time off to search for houses when starting on a graduate career. London is also a very expensive place if you do not have an established income and have not yet received your first pay cheque!

So, many people start in the capital by sharing with friends, fellow interns, or other people in a similar situation. There is a significant geographic clustering in where these people live, and they are quite easy to spot in a couple of Census tables. They likely live in places which are not right in the centre of the city (too expensive) but which are well connected to the City and the West End (the major sources of graduate employers) by tube or other transport. Above all, they are likely places with an established nightlife, with bars and clubs, to ease the transition from university life to a professional career, and help people find their feet.

Above is a map showing multi-person households where not all those in the household are students or married/cohabiting. The highest values, where over 20% of households in an area fall into this category, are shown as dark red. In some places, such as parts of Clapham, Whitechapel and Hackney Wick, the figure is over 40%. Other popular areas are Fulham, Balham, Shoreditch and Dalston. All places with a high number of bars and a mix of nightlife and residential blocks.

By contrast, further out areas – Bromley, Bexley, Enfield, Kew – see very low percentages. There is also a noticeable dip in Kensington & Chelsea – nice and central, but almost all places here are likely far too expensive for the majority of those just starting out in London.

You can see an interactive version of the map here.

There are some similar tables: looking at Household Composition and excluding one-person and one-family households, as well as those with dependent children, or entirely composed of students or over 65s, look like this: