THE opening in September 1987 of the second phase of the Melrose bypass, which had been laid along the track of the old Waverley Line, didn’t quite excite the populace as much as the Sunday night the last train from Edinburgh to London used the line in January 1969.
But it was an important milestone in the improvement of Borders roads – when the third phase was completed, it formed a link between the A68 and the A7.
The opening, near the restored Melrose railway station, was performed by Vice-Lord Lieutenant Lord Polwarth watched by Kelso councillor Tom Hunter, the convener of Borders Regional Council.
Southern Reporter journalist Derek Forrest wrote in a front page article on Thursday, September 14: “The car standing next to the platform at Melrose Station departed shortly after 2pm on Tuesday afternoon. The vehicle was driven by Lord Polworth of Harden who had the honour of being the first motorist to use Melrose bypass.”
Lord Polwarth said he had used the bypass route many times – but as a train passenger.
He added: “This is a splendid new road built on the ashes of the railway, literally the ashes dropped by steam trains when the railway was open.”
The first two sections, covering 3.2km, cost £3.5million. The regional council’s director of roads, Richard Hill, admitted that had it not been for the building of the new general hospital at Huntlyburn (the Borders General Hospital), the construction of the bypass might have been delayed for several years.
The BGH was opened by the Queen the following year.
Compiled by Bob Burgess