Published 9th November 2012
Confirmation that the re-opening of 30 miles of the former the Borders Line between Edinburgh and Tweedbank would happen was given as contracts worth £294m were signed to rebuild the line. The line will have seven new and three existing stations on it with new ones provided at Shawfair, Eskbank, Newtongrange, Gorebridge, Stow, Galashiels and Tweedbank.
There has been considerable debate about the length of platforms and loops on the line, especially at the Tweedbank terminus. It was decided in early November to agree proposals by campaigners to provide a 12 carriage long platform and loop there enabling charter trains to operate.
This will bring in thousands of passengers a year to the line boosting the local economy as with ‘The Jacobite’ services between Fort William and Mallaig. These trains are estimated to generate over £5m on the route and places such as Weymouth, Scarborough and Llandudno all via to attract charters to their resorts for the same reason.
Network Rail will construct the route and is hoping to get services up and running within three years to the Borders area 40 years after the line was closed by the Beeching plan. It has taken over responsibility for construction from the Scottish Government.
The Campaign for Borders Rail say that it is thought that this will be the longest railway to have been built in Scotland since the Fort William-Mallaig line in 1901 and the longest rail re-opening project in modern British history.
However, plans are very advanced and trains could be operating in just 24 months from now with works commencing in January. The contracts were signed at the Newtongrange Mining Museum on November 6 and following NR’s take over of the scheme, the cost has dropped by £60 million over the 30-year construction and maintenance period.
Scottish Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “The official handover of the Borders project to Network Rail today marks a milestone in our efforts to provide a fast and efficient rail link that will significantly contribute to area’s economy.
“The Borders Railway will bring inward investment for the local community plus approximately £33 million of benefits for the wider Scottish economy. It will support 400 jobs during the construction phase and act as a catalyst for increased business development and housing opportunities within easy commuting distance of Edinburgh.”
NR’s Scottish route managing director David Simpson, said “We’re delighted now to have reached an agreement on delivery of a project which will finally bring Midlothian and the central Scottish Borders back into the railway network.
Considerable lobbying has been taking place over the last few years and it seems that following a very successful day out to the Settle & Carlisle line in August, Claudia Beamish MSP secured a meeting with the Transport Minister on 4thOctober.
The mater of charter trains was raised again at this meeting and nit appears that the arguments put forward with the support of West Coast Railways, Direct Rail Services and many Charter Train promoters won the day.
One of their key points was that the partial reopening of the Waverley Route is not about nostalgia or sentiment. It partly corrects a major injustice done to the Midlothian & Borders communities four decades ago when the line closed in 1969.
The Waverley Route was not a branch line but the main line between Edinburgh to Carlisle and was arguably Britain’s biggest rail closure of the Beeching era. The closure isolated this area and has severely affected its economy ever since, leaving it struggling with poor road services.
Thirty seven years after the closure of the Waverley Line, The Waverley
Railway (Scotland) Act, received Royal Assent in July 2006, granting the powers to construct a railway from Newcraighall in Midlothian to Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders – a substantial part of the original route. For most of the route, the original course of the former line will be followed.
The route is similar to the Airdrie-Bathgate line so Network Rail expects to be able to learn from that line’s rebuilding and reopening.
Rail author, David Spaven has been campaigning about the line reopening for many years, especially with regard to the charter train opportunities that exist and has been a very active CBR member in this area.
“The new railway will utterly transform the quality of public transport from the western end of the Central Borders to Edinburgh. When the line re-opens to Tweedbank, trains will directly serve three new stations in the Borders and four in Midlothian – and a purpose-built bus-rail interchange at Galashiels and park-and-ride facilities at Tweedbank will ensure that the benefits of the new line extend to a wide swathe of the Central Borders, including Hawick, Selkirk and Melrose.
“Great credit should go to the Scottish Government for listening to the Campaign for Borders Rail which argued long and hard for the planned Tweedbank terminus to be redesigned and extended to accommodate tourist charter trains, which are typically up to 12 coaches long.
The Transport Minister’s announcement confirmed that the Government now recognises the importance of the tourist charter market for the Borders economy, bringing in new visitor spend to attractions such as Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford, Melroseand the Borders abbeys. This railway is now set to rejuvenate the Borders”
Passengers will be able to travel direct from Tweedbank to Edinburgh Waverley in less than an hour at peak times. It will offer a fast and efficient alternative to the congested road network and is expected deliver major economic and social development opportunities.
The project is a key part of the Scottish Government’s wider programme of investment in transport infrastructure, working towards the sustainable economic growth of Scotland.
Other recent Scottish Rail re-openings have been the Airdre-Bathgate and Stirling-Alloa lines. The former was rebuilt on the former trackbed as the Borders line will be. Ridership has beaten all forecasts. The Stirling line was already a freight line so technically never closed.
David Spaven has written a book about the route called ‘Waverley Route: the life, death and rebirth of the Borders Railway’. It is published by Argyll Publishing ISBN 9781908931009 and costs £20 from www.argyllpublishing.co.uk . It is in hardback format and contains 288 pages. 244mm X 174mm approx with 35 colour and 51 b/w illustrations.