I’ve been up and down the A7 from Selkirk to Edinburgh for a variety of reasons of late, and while the bus journey can at times be a wee bit tedious – and sometimes bladder-busting – I have taken heart from the now clearly obvious work that is being undertaken to restore a rail line between the capital and the central Borders – a line that we were robbed of in 1969 as one of the last routes to go under the Beeching axe.
I know it will start and finish only at Tweedbank and I can understand the angst of those in Hawick who feel cheated because of that, and I can understand my fellow Borderers in the east who say they are helping to pay for it and yet will derive no benefit from it.
I can understand – but I’m not going to weep buckets of tears. Those in the east have a station, albeit in England, at Berwick, and I do believe that in time if the railway is not extended southwards, then there will be improvements to the A7, providing a bypass around Selkirk and giving the Teries an easier journey to jump on the train at Gala (although they’ll probably opt for Tweedbank).
The battle to bring a rail link back to the Borders has been a long, hard, arduous and at times seemingly-impossible journey. A bit like the X95 bus when it, instead of going straight from the Borders to the capital, deteriorates into a city service.
I’m going to digress here for a moment and mention pies. Hot pies. Very good pies in fact. I was returning from Auld Reekie not so long ago and spent a happy hour in the extremely-hospitable Royal Oak on Infirmary Street.
It’s handy: I just turn the corner and board the X95 on South Bridge. And the bus stop is next to the Piemaker where their wares are truly out of this world. Out of this world until I tried to take a half-eaten steaming steak variety on board my bus. “Is that a pie?” I was asked by the driver. I thought he was envious and I replied that it was and a damn good one too. That’s when I was politely but firmly told that hot pies weren’t welcome on board.
I looked stunned, he kindly relented and I shuffled up the bus as far I could, guiltily avoiding the faces of the other passengers, and slumped down two seats from the back. The pie that tasted great in the open air of South Bridge now faded into a tasteless belly-filler at the rear of the X95.
But that’s not the reason I welcome with open arms the work on the old Waverley Line. I stood at the railway station in Galashiels on a chilly January night in 1969 when the last passenger train headed for London from Edinburgh. The entire writing staff of the Border Telegraph was there – John McMurtrie my editor and Adam Grant our senior reporter. We watched as it departed and the signals went out, unaware of the drama to come at Newcastleton where the polis arrested the local minister for leading a protest.
The trains are coming back. The debate is over. Let the critics whinge – but if the cash isn’t spent on trains, it sure as hell won’t be spent on the A7.
And I’ll find a fine pie shop near Waverley Station.