Published: 4th November 2015
Hopes are high for proposals to extend the Borders Railway further through the Scottish Borders along the line of the old Waverley Route from Edinburgh through Hawick to Carlisle.
More than 30 miles of railway opened in September between Edinburgh and Tweedbank, a new station between Galashiels and Melrose. Most of the new route followed the old trackbed but there is also a deviation where no railway previously ran, serving a new development just outside Edinburgh at Shawfair.
New proposals to get tracks back through Hawick are being pursued, encouraged by the massive success of the new line, reconnecting Midlothian and the Scottish Borders with the railway network for the first time since closure of the Waverley Route in 1969.
The Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR), which had successfully campaigned for the railway that has opened, has now decided that as well as pressing for improvements to the new route, it will press the case for extension through Hawick to Carlisle. Support from England is also possible, which in turn could benefit the case for proposed rail reopenings in England and Wales.
At its annual general meeting in Stow Town Hall on 24 October, CBR agreed that “Hawick and beyond” must be the next objective, with Carlisle the ultimate goal so that people can once again travel between England and Hawick and other places in the Scottish Borders by train without having to go via Edinburgh.
It was the 16th AGM of the CBR, but the first to be held since the opening of the railway. Stow station has reopened thanks to the CBR pressing the case for it – Stow was not in the original station plan for the Borders Railway.
Speakers at the meeting supported the theme of the evening, “Building on Success”.
Councillor Lisa Beattie from Midlothian spoke of the boost that the new railway had given to her local authority’s area, with stations at Eskbank, Newtongrange and Gorebridge attracting significant business already. The station at Shawfair will serve a development that is to follow. She stressed that the new railway had ended the isolation of Midlothian.
Hugh Wark, who managed the project for Network Rail before his recent retirement after more than 40 years on the railways as a civil engineer, spoke of “the wonderful occasion” when the Queen formally opened the Borders Railway on 9 September.
Calum Kerr MP, who represents Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk in the House of Commons, told the meeting that he is working with other MPs at Westminster to press the case for extension of the railway to serve more of the communities that were once linked by the Waverley line through Hawick to Carlisle.
Mr Kerr, who has already spoken with MPs on the English side of the Border and in Scotland, said that if campaigners made the case for the restoration of the full Waverley line to Carlisle, they could well succeed.
“If we can build a clear and well developed case for a full Edinburgh to Carlisle line, I believe it is possible we can get it,” Mr Kerr said.
Mr Kerr suggested that there could be a new all-party group of politicians at Westminster to call for rail expansion. As well as giving support for the Waverley line reaching Carlisle, such a group could also take an interest in rail reopenings in England.
The Scottish National Party MP said that the new railway that opened in September would act as an engine for economic growth, increase opportunities for inwards investment, bring social benefits as well as jobs, and boost tourism. He praised those who had managed to secure the new line for a “remarkable achievement”.
Mr Kerr has also said that he is continuing to work with others to re-open a station at Reston in Berwickshire, on the East Coast Main Line.
Simon Walton, outgoing chairman of the CBR, welcomed the large turnout of people at Stow Town Hall, following the “huge interest” in the railway shown around the reopening.
Mr Walton, who has resigned the chairmanship because of a work-related move to England, remains on the CBR committee. He is succeeded in the chair by Allan McLean.
The Club 50 discount scheme that was introduced by ScotRail as part of its new franchise has now gained more than 100,000 members.
The club offers discounts of 20 per cent on Off-Peak and Advance fares plus other benefits for people aged over 50. This scheme was introduced after Abellio replaced FirstGroup in April as the holder of the ScotRail franchise that is awarded by the Scottish Government’s agency, Transport Scotland. Club 50 has replaced the former Club 55 promotion for people aged over 55.