If we look back over the last few years of the debate between those who support the reopening of the Borders Railway and those who oppose it, we find one fundamental difference.
The Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR), in the press and on the CBR web site, has used evidence-based, verifiable information, which is in the public domain, to back up our case.
Those opposed, including the Borders Party, have used half-truths, distortions and frankly ill-informed and inaccurate rubbish to support their case.
Taking the letters in last week’s Southern, your correspondents say, yet again, that the Borders population has “not been consulted”. Ollie Young says he has only ever found “one person in the Borders in favour of the reopening.” There were 18,000 people who signed the petition to re-open the line – not fiction, not half-truth or unsubstantiated rubbish – fact!
I have press cuttings from the time of the last local government elections and the Borders Party stood unashamedly against the railway. They returned a paltry two councillors and failed dismally in most wards. Again, fact not fiction.
The Borders population returned councillors who, as part of their individual policies, supported the reopening. The project has been through all the necessary objection and planning stages and one and all have had their opportunity to have their say.
Nicholas Watson says the reopening will cost “£350,000 plus per regularly used seat” and is a “waste of money.” Again no verifiable evidence produced for these remarks – not one shred. CBR, has repeatedly shown in the press that as a rule all business case predictions for re-opening lines and stations have been proved dramatically wrong – actual use far outstrips predicted use. Using the Alloa reopening yet again, actual use is 400,000 per annum compared with a predicted use of 155,000, without house-building or a rise in local population.
Again we are told about how “it will never make money.” So are we to abolish all public services that don’t make money? Why do Borderers have to contribute to a national rail network without enjoying its benefits?
Clackmannanshire Council has said the Alloa re-opening has brought increased economic growth and inward investment, improved community pride and confidence, created social benefits in education and employment, promoted regeneration, reduced congestion and emissions and promoted inclusion.
To those opposed to the railway, I say it really is time you put up or shut up – where is your evidence that the Borders will not benefit in similar ways? You have no evidence whatsoever to say it will not.
Robin Cross tells us we will be subjected to “truculent and strike-prone railway staff and it will probably see the end of free bus travel for the retired.” Oh please, yet more unsubstantiated rubbish! The verifiable facts are that rail passenger numbers have increased by 40 per cent in the last 10 years and customer satisfaction is running at over 90 per cent.
The Borders Party says it would be in favour of the route being re-opened the whole way from Edinburgh to Carlisle. A former Scottish transport minister has said that the full reopening is a “perfectly reasonable ambition” – shouldn’t Borders Party members be in CBR? This policy contradiction shows quite clearly that the Borders Party seems to have a problem with joined-up thinking.
In future can we please have some accurate, verifiable information to back up the case in trying to prevent Borders folk from being re-connected to the national rail network.