Hundreds sign up to support fight for extension of Borders railway

Robin Deas and Marion Short by the old railway line in Hawick.
Robin Deas and Marion Short by the old railway line in Hawick.

The campaign to extend the Borders railway is gathering steam after hundreds of new members boarded the movement last week.

More than 300 would-be passengers signed up to support the drive to reopen the line from Tweedbank to Carlisle, during a week-long recruitment drive in the Love My Beds shop in Hawick.

Rail campaigners Madge Elliot and Robin Deas, with a replica model of Hawick's old railway station, made by Mr Deas.

Rail campaigners Madge Elliot and Robin Deas, with a replica model of Hawick's old railway station, made by Mr Deas.

Organised by Marion Short, vice-chairperson of the Campaign for Border Rail, and former textile firm boss Robin Deas, the event sought to recruit new members, as well as providing a platform to gather views and raise awareness.

Teries of all ages were catered for, with an art competition and a working train which youngsters could operate.

A replica of the town’s former railway station built by Mr Deas was the centrepiece of the display, with campaign members on hand to chat to those interested in registering their support.

“A lot of the public from Hawick and around and about came in,” Mr Deas said.

“We had over 300 people joining at £5 a head, which was very heartening. It was nice to see so many people coming off the street and seeing why this is so important.

“I was a little disappointed that no MSPs came by. I would have liked to see some of the heavyweights there.”

However, organisers were delighted to welcome campaign VIP Madge Elliot, 90, who fought vigorously but in vain to save the original Waverley Route before it closed on January 6, 1969.

Determined to see that decision reversed, Mrs Elliot was instrumental in getting the first stage of the Waverley line reopened.

“She was speechless for a few moments when she was first brought in and saw the model, just remembering the time from 1970 and her huge effort to get the railway at least to Tweedbank,” Mr Deas said.

“It would be so good for her to know the next stage has been agreed.

“The more I have been talking with people about extending the railway through Hawick to Carlisle, the more I hear that it is sorely needed.

“We’re really going to push this.”

“The response was very positive,” Mrs Short added.

“Most people want the train to resume running along the whole route of the former Waverley line – tomorrow if they could get it.”

Issues raised by the people of Hawick and visitors from neighbouring communities included the need for timber lorries to be taken off the roads, with logs from Kielder Forest being transported as freight on the extended railway instead.

“That’s as well as the need for the railway to bring much-needed industry, employment, housing and tourism to the area,” Mrs Short said.

“People felt that the railway would alleviate the current feeling of isolation, particularly in social terms.

“It was also said that the extension of the railway is necessary for future generations, particularly for students needing to travel to larger cities for university and further education.

“In general, it was felt that currently everything stops at Galashiels and the southern part of the Borders is being neglected.”

Keen to keep momentum going, there will be a Campaign for Borders Railway stand at the Holm Show in Newcastleton this Saturday, with forms also available on Denholm Green at the Hizzy Run, courtesy of Denholm Community Council, on Sunday.

Forms will be available too at the Hawick and District Railway Society exhibition at the town’s Auld Baths this weekend and in Hawick Museum for two months thereafter.

Campaigners are due to meet new transport minister Michael Matheson in October for talks.