Borders Railway celebrates first anniversary

The Borders Railway, a £300 million project to regenerate and grow the economies of the south of Scotland, has celebrated its first birthday.

Stream train at opening of the Borders Railway

Photograph by: Walter BaxterStream train at opening of the Borders Railway

It’s 167 years since the Edinburgh-Hawick Branch of the North British Railway Company opened in 1849. Known as the ‘Waverley Route’, after the first published novel of celebrated Borders resident Sir Walter Scott, it provided direct rail services between Edinburgh, the Borders, North Yorkshire and London St Pancras.

For more than a century around 500,000 passengers and 2.5million tons of freight used the line each year but, come the 1960s, Dr Richard Beeching, who was in charge of a root and branch review of the UK rail network, declared it surplus to requirements and it closed on January 6 1969.

It was a decision that was to have a major adverse effect on the the development and prosperity of the area between Edinburgh, Midlothian and the Scottish Borders.

However, in 2000 the three local authorities began drawing up a business case for a new Borders Railway. Backed by the Campaign for Borders Rail and Borders Transport Futures the plan won support from the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and the rail industry.

Construction of the longest new domestic railway line in the UK for more than a century finally began in April 2013. More than 1,000 workers excavated almost a million tonnes of earth; laid 30 miles of track on 90,000 sleepers; developed seven stations; and built or repaired over 100 bridges, roads and paths.

Abbotsford - The Home of Sir Walter Scott

Abbotsford – The Home of Sir Walter Scott

The project, one of the most strategic of its kind for almost 50 years, was hailed as much more than a transport link. Supporters say it has been a lifeline for the numerous communities along its route, bringing fresh investment, new residents and visitors.

Some 11,000 businesses operate across the region in the growth sectors of food and drink, creative industries, sustainable tourism, energy, financial and business services and life sciences. The value of goods and services produced in the area is just under £20billion, about 20 per cent of Scotland’s wealth, and the re-opened line is helping to boost those figures.

Tourism is key to the economic development of the area. In 2013, around 4.3 million people visited Edinburgh, the Lothians and the Scottish Borders, spending £1.3 billion. The railway is helping encourage some of these visitors to venture further afield and enjoy more of the attractions and activities on offer.

Millions of pounds have been invested in Abbotsford, the Home of Sir Walter Scott, the National Mining Museum Scotland at Newtongrange, Dalkeith Country Park and the promotion of international events such as the Melrose 7s and Borders Book Festival.

For the last year trains have once again been running every half hour along the line, connecting the communities of Shawfair, Eskbank, Newtongrange, Gorebridge, Stow, Galashiels and Tweedbank with Edinburgh Waverley, cutting around 60,000 car journeys a year in the process.