Pulished:7th June 2015
It is 47 years since a Hawick woman led a deputation to Downing Street to protest against the planned closure of the railway through the Scottish Borders, the Waverley Route.
Now Madge Elliot has been honoured for her lifelong campaign to save and then reopen that railway line. She was invited to take part in the naming of a diesel locomotive to celebrate the reopening of a major section of that route.
At Edinburgh Waverley station on 4 June 2015 she and the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Keith Brown MSP, unveiled a nameplate on the side of a Freightliner Class 66 locomotive, number 66528: Madge Elliot MBE.
The nameplate unveiling celebrated the final stages of the Borders Railway project to reopen a major part of the Waverley Route that closed in January 1969 between Edinburgh and Carlisle through Galashiels and Hawick.
On 6 September, ScotRail trains that currently run between Edinburgh Waverley and Newcraighall will be extended through Midlothian to the Scottish Borders. The 30-mile line is partly on a new alignment but mainly on the trackbed of the Waverley Route.
An official study is to be carried out into the possible reopening of more of the railway, perhaps all the way through Hawick to Carlisle. In September 2015, trains will run through from Edinburgh beyond Newcraighall to stations at Shawfair, Eskbank, Newtongrange, Gorebridge, Stow, Galashiels and Tweedbank.
The Campaign for Borders Rail, which Madge Elliot helped to found, sees the 30 miles to Tweedbank, between Galashiels and Melrose, as phase one of the eventual reopening of more of the railway.
The ceremony on 4 June was attended by friends and family of Madge Elliot, senior railway managers, and rail campaigners happy to see trains returning to once-closed stations.
Among representatives of Network Rail was Hugh Wark, project manager for the Borders project who previously had a similar role for the reopening of the line linking Bathgate and Airdrie. He said: “None of us would be here to celebrate the impending completion of this Borders Railway without the passion and dedication of Madge Elliot and the grassroots campaigners that got this project off the ground.”
Paul Smart, managing director of Freightliner Heavy Haul, said: “We are privileged to be able to pay tribute to Madge’s dedication by naming our Freightliner loco number 66 258 in her honour.”
Mr Brown said that within days the first ScotRail trains would be running on the Borders route for crew-training and testing. Then in September, the public would travel. He praised Madge Elliot for her campaigning role.
Mr Brown recalled that the Class 66 locomotive was one he had recently travelled with on the line for a ceremony celebrating the construction work that it had contributed towards by hauling works trains.
Training and test runs begin on Monday 8 June to prepare for the public services to be introduced on 6 September. By then, final completion works for the project will also be finished. Already track, signalling and structures are in place.