David Parker’s recent comments in TheSouthern on the Borders railway and tourism are correct and the Borders could benefit hugely by developing and marketing their many attractions.
Recent statistics show the attractive tourist destination lines of England seeing an average 50 per cent increase in use, in some cases 90 per cent, over the last four years. Detailed research by the Waverley Route Trust indicates that the Borders economy could benefit to the tune of £500,000 a year through effectively marketed rail charter tourism.
Moving on to recent letters in your columns, isn’t it interesting that Nicholas Watson has not answered the question about his links with the Institute of Economic Affairs and whether he supports the closure of all rural railway lines?
He yet again gives us the red herring about the 206 votes to 67 at the 2008 meeting. Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR) much prefers the real democratic vote to measure the Borders Party successes by way of the local elections which resulted in a virtual rout for his anti-Borders rail party. This party supports the re-opening of the whole route through to Carlisle, which a former Transport Minister has said is a “perfectly reasonable ambition”, but does not support the re-opening of the first stage. Hardly creditable is it?
He accuses councillors of the national parties of being spineless. Perhaps our national and local politicians are basing their opinions evidence, not unsubstantiated rubbish like “it’s a waste of money” or “a white elephant.”
The whole project was subject to full parliamentary approval and the case proved. Our national and local politicians can look at the success of other re-openings across Scotland and Wales in the last 10 years. All have usage figures far in excess of those in the business case for re-opening.
Mr Watson and his fellow travellers fail to see the difference between price and value. They have a vague idea of the price of the reopening project but they have no concept what so ever of the value of the project to the Borders, despite the evidence.
The recently re-opened Stirling-Alloa line has promoted economic growth and inward investment, improved community pride and confidence, created social benefits in education and employment, promoted regeneration, reduced congestion and emissions and promoted social inclusion.
Nobody looks back on these re-openings now and says they were a waste of money or a white elephant, on the contrary, they have all been a huge success. Rail passenger numbers continue to rise despite the recession.
I have asked Mr Watson and his supporters on several occasions to tell us why the Borders will not benefit in the same way. They have failed to do so, quite simply, because they can’t. Please Mr Watson, and your fellow travellers, could you please try, just once will do, to give us some verifiable evidence as to why the reopened Borders Railway will not be a huge success, bringing great benefits to the Borders, instead of the usual unsubstantiated rubbish.