Newcastleton Community Council has invited the Campaign for Borders Rail to outline what bringing back rail services may mean for the southern Borders community.
Until 1969, Newcastleton was connected to the network, with services both local and long distance. The sleeper service to London was famously halted that year when residents blockaded the line in protest at the loss of their “Waverley Route” service.
On Tuesday, the community has the chance to hear how the campaign to reopen the Edinburgh to Tweedbank line is still working to see the rest of it reinstated through Hawick, on to Carlisle.
“It’s been a long time since the railway came through the village,” said Barbara Elborn, representing the Newcastleton Business Forum. “There is a broad spread of opinion on what benefits the railway may bring, and what else might be done to help regenerate and invigorate the social and economic future for the community. We want to ensure that the feasibility study covers all the ground. This meeting gives us the chance to hear about the success so far and what steps we need to take to ensure that can be emulated if the line is extended.”
Speaking for the campaign will be Simon Walton, who was chairman from the time of signing the contract and throughout the construction phase and first year of operations. He has addressed similar meetings in Langholm and Carlisle. “Having lived right alongside the line and seen the rails laid, I think I’m qualified to bear witness to what anyone can expect along the journey to restoration,” he said. “I’m sure there are many questions to be answered and many opinions to be aired. I’m expecting this to be a well attended and vigorous debate.”
Among the questions will be the eventual route of any restored service, and how the transport and communication needs of communities that might not be directly served can be satisfied.
While the popularity of the Borders Railway to the north has clearly improved the prospects for further extension, there remain questions over whether different infrastructure spending might bring better benefits to the region. Simon Walton says he expects to hear many options tabled. “While the Campaign obviously believes that investment in rail services for the Borders represents the best way to put right the social injustice of the line’s closure in 1969, and the subsequent economic blight that precipitated, we’re not blinkered to the wider regeneration needs of the community,” he said.
“Historically the line came through Newcastleton to serve the commercial needs of competing Victorian railway companies,” said Barbara Elborn. “We’d like to see where the community needs stand in any future publicly-funded rail project. Would, for example a railway come through Newcastleton without a station? Would there be any provision for freight handling, notably the bulk timber that currently moves by road through this part of the Borders.”
The meeting is open to all and being hosted by Newcastleton and District Community Council at Newcastleton Village Hall on Tuesday, May 10, at 7pm.