Railway: use it or lose it – again

Rail campaigner Madge Elliot
Rail campaigner Madge Elliot

Whether you be a royalist or not, the news that the Queen is to open the Borders Railway on the day she becomes Britain’s longest-reigning monarch must be regarded as good news.

HM will pass the milestone set by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, on September 9. And on that very same day she, with the grand old duke, and accompanied by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, will steam down the Gala Water in coaches pulled by that old locomotive 60009, better known to train buffs as the Union of South Africa.

A wee pause here just to clarify something and before the eagle-eyed station anoraks think we have made a mistake on our page one today.

Yes, the loco shown alongside the Queen bears the name Cumbrian Mountain Express – but she is the Union of South Africa running as a Cumbrian special.

I wonder – or rather I hope – loco 60009 will bear an appropriate nameplate when she pulls out of Waverley station en route to Tweedbank.

How about the Sir Walter Scott, The Gala Water Special, Back to the Borders or the Up Yours Beeching Special.

Yes, Beeching. Half a century on and we have got our trains back on track – at least partly. The fight goes on for a total restoration of the old Waverley route through to Carlisle.

There were many who said the battle to bring trains back to the central Borders would never succeed. They were wrong. But now we have to use them.

There were varied and controversial reasons why the Waverley line was chosen for the chop. Today arguments are still raised about how much of the railway books were cooked to put the track on the Beeching execution block.

But it was clear that passenger numbers had fallen. More Borderers had cars and you didn’t need a mortgage to head for the fuel pumps.

I believe Borderers will use the train ... and yes, I know the railheads are far away from the homesteads of many Borderers. So there an onus on the Scottish Government, council and transport companies to ensure a proper and adequate bus service to link with the trains.

Better roads are needed – how about a bypass for Selkirk to make it easier for my Hawick friends to get to Gala station. Oh, they’d probably opt for Tweedbank.

I also believe there are great business opportunities associated with the return of the railway. Let’s grab them.

Ma’am, enjoy your trip. But remember there’s no royal wee at Tweedbank.