TV show about old rail route through Borders running late but now about to arrive

A TV documentary exploring the past, present and future of the Borders Railway will finally arrive on our screens next week, almost a year after it was filmed.

Tuesday, 14th April 2020, 4:01 pm
Updated Tuesday, 14th April 2020, 9:42 pm
Walking Britain's Lost Railways presenter Rob Bell on the Melrose chain bridge over the River Tweed.
Walking Britain's Lost Railways presenter Rob Bell on the Melrose chain bridge over the River Tweed.

Presenter Rob Bell visited the region last May to shoot scenes for his Channel 5 documentary series Walking Britain’s Lost Railways.

He met up with Simon Walton, chairman of the Campaign for Borders Rail, and visited locations including Stobs Camp and one of Hawick’s textile factories.

The six-part series started being broadcast late last year, but after the first two episodes it was halted, apparently due to scheduling issues.

Walking Britain's Lost Railways presenter Rob Bell with Campaign for Borders Rail chairman Simon Walton at Tweedbank station.

The series eventually resumed this spring, and next week, on Friday, April 24, at 8pm, the final episode, about the old Waverley Route from Edinburgh to Carlisle through the Borders, will be screened.

The first stage of Rob’s journey was aboard the new Borders Railway, the longest train line to open in over a century upon its launch, after years of campaigning, in September 2015.

The show follows a walk along a length of the old 98-mile route closed in 1969 as part of former British Rail chairman Richard Beeching’s cutbacks, taking in the 23-arch Newbattle viaduct.

Mr Walton said he filmed with the presenter for a good part of a day at Tweedbank station last May but doesn’t know how much of their conversation will make it into the finished hour-long documentary.

Walking Britain's Lost Railways presenter Rob Bell with Gerry Graham at Hawico in Hawick.

He said: “There was a scheduling issue with Channel 5. I don’t know the details, but they broadcast the first couple of episodes of the series and then unceremoniously put it on hold, but the series has resumed and the sixth and final episode will be the Waverley Route episode which I took part in.

“We met up at Tweedbank and Rob asked me a little bit about the history of the line and the success of the Borders Railway and the campaign’s part in seeing the line extended, and I sent him on his way with a couple of recommendations and people to meet.

“His opening question, I don’t know if this will survive the final cut, related to why Tweedbank was the terminus and I emphasised that it was a temporary terminus and that it serves a modern purpose in that it is a park-and-ride facility and that it complements Galashiels, which is a public transport hub.

“I said that it had to be considered as phase one and that the rest of the line to Carlisle is phase two, and I said it would not be a lost railway for long.”

Calls for an extension of the Borders Railway into England continue to gather momentum now the number of passengers using its stations annually has passed the two-million mark for the first time.

According to statistics issued by the Office of Rail and Road, station usage along the Edinburgh-Tweed bank track in the last financial year was 2,026,186, up from 1,961,528 passenger movements the year before.

Those figures are estimates of the number of entries, exits and interchanges at each station in the Borders, garnered using information from ticket sales and other data.