CAMPAIGNERS are calling for an urgent review of the Borders Railway’s track specification to ensure a future extension to Hawick is possible, writes Kenny Paterson.
The Campaign for Borders Rail claim the Scottish Government – meeting this week in Hawick – must make sure the predominantly single track status of the route from Edinburgh to Tweedbank can be adapted to double tracks to enable a lengthening of railway. The CBR is also hoping the Scottish Government and Scottish Borders Council can commission a report into the costs and benefits of lengthening the line 18 miles from Tweedbank to Hawick.
The group claims Hawick is “further from the rail network than any other town of its size in Britain” having been left without a railway since 1969.
And CBR chair Simon Walton believes the introduction of the railway would boost Hawick’s economy.
He added: “Today, public transport from Hawick to Edinburgh – still provided by a basic bus rather than an express coach, and taking two hours seven minutes – is slower than it was in 1901. Hawick’s population has declined – it has now lost the status of largest town in the Borders to Galashiels – and a large part of Burnfoot is included in the 15 per cent ‘Most Deprived Areas’ of Scotland.
“A third of households in the town do not have access to a car. Two generations of Hawick people have missed out on the opportunities for access to education, employment and involvement in rail-based tourism which they would have enjoyed if the railway to Edinburgh had not been closed.”
Meanwhile, Network Rail has come under fire after it was discovered some workers on the Borders line were being employed under the controversial zero hours contract, which means employees are only used when required.
Pat Rafferty of the Unite union described the use of the contracts as “sickening”.
A Network Rail spokesman replied: “We anticipate that during the peak construction period which has still to commence, the project will support over 1,000 workers on the line.
“The vast majority of these workers will not be employed using zero hour contracts. Most will be full-time employed or engaged through a standard temporary contract, with the same terms and conditions as full-time employees. This type of contract is used regularly in the construction industry where intensive short spells of work take place.”