WATCH: Flying Scotsman thrills Borders crowds ... eventually
Three minutes ahead of schedule, The Flying Scotsman slid into Tweedbank yesterday afternoon with far less drama than happened behind the scenes in the last 24 hours.
The region had held its breath all week, as the visit of the famous steam engine caught the imagination of more than just the usual trainspotters.
And with Scottish Borders Council and organisations such as Energise Borders pulling out all the stops to give families a good day out, news that it was to be cancelled came through on Friday afternoon, and it was like a punch to the stomach to all that had been looking forward to it.
An administration error by Network Rail was the apparent reason for the cancellation ... but many people were still working behind the scenes to ensure the iconic locomotive would still be able to travel down the new Borders Railway.
And by late Saturday afternoon it was all back on track.
It was a relieved council leader David Parker who alighted from the train along with many people who had paid premium prices to ride on the famous train.
He said: “It’s been an incredible 48 hours. We had to work incredibly hard to ensure the train came to the Scottish Borders and secure The Flying Scotsman and we have done that,
“And it is really fantastic, a marvellous Borders reception with many thousands of people lining the route and really spectacular scenes.”
Asked what the reason was behind the temporary cancellation, Mr Parker said: “Fundamentally, it was an adminsistrative error. Network Rail simply didn’t fill in the proper forms and do the licencing as they should have done, and decided on Friday night that it didn’t really matter.
“A huge effort had to be made by ScotRail to make sure we got this train operational again.
“Simple fact is that ScotRail in 24 hours did what Network Rail had 12 weeks to do.
“So really, it was a huge effort in Scotland and it is marvellous that we were able to salvage the situation.”who
Calum Kerr MP, also on the train for its arrival in Tweedbank, said: “It’s amazing isn’t it? What an incredible piece of engineering, coming down what is already an iconic line into the Borders. The combination of the two is made in heaven ... it’s perfect.
“It has been an amazing 24 hours. When the news came in at 5pm on Friday it caught everyone off guard, it’s cancelled.
“And there was this mass rallying cry ... you saw how much it means, the emotion from people who were so devastated it wasn’t coming.
“But we all jumped into action, and I think special praise is due to Derek Mackay, the transport minister and Phil Verster, the head of Scotrail, who got people working round the clock to make it happen.
“It was an admin mistake, lets worry about that later.
“The fact is, it’s here, the sun is shining and everyone’s going to have a great day,”
However, it could have been more than an admin error that stopped the Flying Scotsman’s arrival.
Train driver Steve Chipperfield said: “It’s a hard route for a steam engine, with a steep climb, but she performed absolutely miraculously.”
See this week’s Southern Reporter for more news on the Flying Scotsman’s flying visit.