I have so far resisted the temptation of getting involved in the Borders rail link saga.
Over the years I have read various negative views recorded in your columns and wonder why some Borderers seem to take great pleasure in being the prophets of doom.
The story as I see it began when the then Scottish Executive in Holyrood examined the principal case for the new line and it was generally agreed in Edinburgh and Borders-wide that a third artery between us and Edinburgh could only be a good thing. We were then promised prior to each subsequent election that design and funding was about to be put in place, but as usual this did not transpire.
The estimated cost was way under at £120million – at that time Holyrood had managed to actually earmark approximately £90million.
Enter the SNP, all serious political groups in government and Scottish Borders Council were consulted and were still keen for this project to go ahead. After a reassessment of the cost a more realistic figure of £300million was accepted. Scottish Borders Council was also far-sighted enough to realise the value of such a link, especially when the cost to Borderers would be around £50million and minimal to council tax payers as much of this could be factored into housing developers’ contributions.
Most of their share has already been spent.
The final construction costs will be jointly met by a slice of Scotland’s block grant from Westminster and private investors through the Scottish Futures Trust. This funding has now been agreed at government level and the first sod has been cut to officially start construction.
A local conservative MSP has been deliberately vague in the local press about this wonderful new source of private funding and has stated that he would rather see the money spent on roads.
He knows quite well that this was never an option – what private investor would pledge money to a government-owned trunk road? He also knows that if this £250million is turned down in the borders it would soon be snapped up to fund other projects such as the Glasgow Airport Rail Link.
Nicholas Watson, leader of a Borders political Nimby group, and his anti-rail brigade have continued to systematically malign the whole project to such an extent that I am now beginning to wonder if they have some ulterior motive.
Is he seriously suggesting that we abandon this scheme? What do we do about all the monies collected from developers and already spent? Will he be asking Scottish Borders Council tax payers to foot the bill?
The truth is that other recently-reinstated lines such as Bathgate and Alloa have been very successful. Surely, as local councillors, we all have a duty to help include the Borders in the rest of the country’s travel network.
Put simply, others have talked the talk and it has taken the SNP to produce results. Who knows, perhaps we can look forward to having trainloads of tourists being transported straight from Princes Street to the romantic heart of the Borders with the splendid Abbotsford House as a magnet.
Come on, true Borderers, let’s get behind this project. Our share of the money has been raised and spent. Let’s not risk putting investors off with this nonsense.
I hope that this does not spark off another round of negativity. Why can’t we all sit back and watch this long-overdue project come to fruition? I personally am looking forward to a stress-free mode of travel between the Borders and the capital.
(SNP councillor, Jedburgh and District)
Further to my letter of February 24, I write to advise that I did receive a reply to my questions to the Scottish transport minister about the Borders railway.
Unfortunately the reply did not come from Keith Brown, but from a representative of Transport Scotland who obviously have a vested interest in the project. I received the standard reply which trotted out the usual flawed information and statistics. I was informed that the Borders railway would serve 200,000 people, being the population of the entire Borders region and South Midlothian.
So I deduce that Transport Scotland expects people from as far away as West Linton, Newcastleton, Yetholm and Cockburnspath to travel to Tweedbank to use the railway. Either they do not understand the geographical area covered by the Borders or they are distorting the truth in order to beef up the case for the railway.
I was interested to read Ollie Young’s letter detailing the possible cost of travelling to Edinburgh by train. Rail travel is not cheap in this country and cost will undoubtedly affect potential users.
He also suggested a ballot of Borders residents to gauge public feeling on the project. I have hundreds of friends and work colleagues, and not one of them thinks there is any prospect of the Borders railway paying its way.