Published: 29th July 2015
Although public services are not scheduled to begin until 6 September, the Borders Railway between Tweedbank and Edinburgh has carried its first official passenger.
Madge Elliot travelled on 26 July on a special Class 158 train as a guest of the ScotRail Alliance of Abellio and Network Rail.
She was honoured in June by the naming of a Freightliner Class 66 locomotive, number 66528: Madge Elliot MBE. But the journey on the line was the result of an ambition that went back to 1969 when the railway closed in spite of a campaign in which she played a leading role. Madge and her family took a trip on the new line before it opens to the public.
Accompanied by her husband Bob, sons Kim and Sean, as well as other friends and family, Madge joined a “training” service at Tweedbank station. Madge is renowned for her fight to save the Waverley Route that linked Edinburgh with Hawick and Carlisle.
She was a founder of the Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR), which fought hard to bring trains back to the route and aims to continue its campaign for reopening more of the line through Hawick to Carlisle. The opening on 6 September of 30 miles between Tweedbank through Galashiels to Newcraighall on the edge of Edinburgh is regarded by the CBR as “phase one”. (At Newcraighall, trains will run through onto existing tracks into Edinburgh.)
Madge’s elder son Kim said: “We’re delighted to be among the first people to travel on the new Borders line, as this railway is so important to our family.
“Experiencing the route first-hand is something we’ve all been looking forward to since the Borders Railway deal was concluded in 2012, and it’s great to see my mother being honoured for the role she played in the re-opening of the line.”
The Scottish Government’s Infrastructure Secretary, Keith Brown MSP, said: “It was a real privilege for me to meet Madge when we named a locomotive in her honour and to put her forward to experience the route before it opens.
“Madge Elliot is a legend of the Borders and the railways, and it is absolutely fitting that she be the first member of the public to travel on this line as she was so instrumental in having it reinstated.
“We’re now only weeks away from seeing what will be a truly historic event in the opening of the Borders Railway, with all of the benefits that will bring, and I look forward to joining Madge and the rest of the Borders, Midlothian and Edinburgh communities for that celebration.”
Meanwhile, details have been confirmed of steam trains that will operate on the Borders Railway during its opening weeks. The locomotive involved will be A4 Pacific number 60009 “Union of South Africa”.
For this, ScotRail is linking with Steam Dreams, who have a booking phone number 01483 209888
The steam journeys will run every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 10 September for six weeks. Departures from Edinburgh Waverley are at 1044 or 1052 in the morning, due back just after 4pm.
Tickets will be priced at £75 First Class, £40 Standard and £20 for a Standard Class child’s ticket (under 16). A family ticket (two adults and two children, Standard) is priced at £100. All tickets include train travel on ScotRail services to get to and from the steam train on the same day.
Regular scheduled passenger trains will be diesel-operated. Tickets are available now and can by booked via redspottedhanky.com
Mike Cantlay, Chairman of VisitScotland, said: “The opening of the Borders Railway is a fantastic opportunity for Scottish tourism and the introduction of steam trains is excellent news. It is a chance for passengers to step back in time and enjoy the beautiful countryside on another level as these majestic locomotives make their way through Midlothian.
“The magical Scottish Borders is one of Scottish tourism’s greatest assets and I’m convinced the addition of steam trains will make our new railway one of Scotland’s most sought-after attractions. I for one cannot wait to enjoy this amazing experience.”
The Borders end of the line at Tweedbank is between Melrose and Galashiels. The track climbs through Stow to Falahill Summit, descending towards Edinburgh through Gorebridge, Newtongrange and Eskbank. A station at Shawfair is on a new alignment bypassing part of the original route linking Eskbank and Newcraighall.