Rail campaigners are calling on Borderers to demand a better deal for the region, 50 years after the last passenger train passed through Hawick on the way to London.
Two decades after its inception, the Campaign for Borders Rail, which is fighting to get the old Waverley Route through Hawick to Carlisle reinstated, says its ambition is “closer than ever” to be realised.
Speaking after a series of anniversary events commemorating the line at the weekend, chairman Simon Walton said that with membership at an all-time high, the campaign was more determined than ever to see rail services restored to drive economic regeneration, business development and social inclusion.
“It’s so easy to get nostalgic over pictures of the old route, but the campaign is about the future,” Mr Walton said.
“It’s important that we remember the heritage of the railway because it shows that people today and future generations have a genuine interest in what happens.
“But the campaign is all about reestablishing the line as a catalyst for economic growth.
“The phenomenal success of the Borders Railway is a clarion call to governments on both sides of the Border. Rail services work as a catalyst for economic development.”
With growing recognition of the tangible part rail services can play in the regeneration of the Borders across communities, business and government, Mr Walton believes there’s plenty of scope for optimism.
“Now, with the campaign’s aims firmly on the agenda in both Holyrood and Westminster, and a cornerstone of the Borderlands Growth Initiative, it’s time to build on that success by committing to realising this vital new infrastructure through a beautiful but economically blighted part of the United Kingdom,” he said.
“By bringing communities throughout the Borders, in both Scotland and England, back on to the national rail network, it will provide the region with a tangible means to reverse the decades of economic decline, and allow those communities to thrive once again, and play a full part in the modern economic revival of both nations.
“We are closer than ever to seeing a new strategic cross-border rail link established, and the benefits of that will be felt keenly, not only in the region, but by the economy across the entire UK rail network.”
The 98-mile Waverley Route from Edinburgh to Carlisle fell victim to the notorious reorganisation of the national rail network, announced by then British Rail chairman Richard Beeching in March 1963.
Despite a valiant battle against the closure led by local MP David Steel and Hawick rail campaigner Madge Elliot, the last scheduled passenger services to run the full length of the former Waverley Route left Edinburgh for London St Pancras on January 5, 1969.
Hauled by diesel locomotive Lytham St Annes, the ‘Night Midland’ brought to an end 120 years of rail service in the region, with the first passenger train travelling to Hawick from Edinburgh in 1849.
The last journey on the old line was commemorated on Saturday, 50 years to the day after the axe fell on the old line, with a special train service from Edinburgh to the Borders.
Hundreds of spectators lined the route as two Class 50 engines pulled the train, run by Pathfinder Tours, along the 30-mile track to Tweedbank.