Do we really want a dual carriageway over Soutra?

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Once again we have to follow well-worn paths countering inconsistency in the tired arguments of the opponents of the Borders railway project and so well illustrated by the three letters from Messers Loneskie, Cross amd Kirkness in TheSouthern, September 15.

Firstly, the project does not impinge of the capital budget of the Scottish Government, so whatever cuts have to be made there are irrelevant to this case. The design, finance, build, and maintain contract under which the railway will be built is self-standing and the outcome of the project has to be judged against that. Beyond this, the arguments of the anti-rail lobby descend toward triviality.

Much is made of improvements to the local road system as a panacea that will solve all the problems of the Borders’ infrastructure. Do we seriously welcome the prospect of dual carriageways winding their way up the valley of the Gala Water or over Soutra and, even if we did, how do we find – and finance – a solution to the ever-increasing traffic decanted on the choke points of Sherrifhall, Gilmerton and the Edinburgh ring-road? As any passenger on the X95 bus might now observe, the large new housing developments at Newtongrange are going to add yet more to the traffic flow trying to get across the A720.

The development of the Borders rail network from the 1840s on showed considerable foresight but the decision to scrap it all in the 1960s showed much less. However, these decisions were taken at a time when economic or social conditions were very different from now.

Today a much higher proportion of the working population has to travel daily away from their homes in the Borders.

It is disingenuous to use the examples of former outposts like Steele Road, Belses or Fountainhall as a stick to belabour the present vision. Our Victorian forebears never expected that small country stations would be profitable in themselves but in different times, when railways offered the sole means of long-distance travel or freight distribution, they added value to the whole network.

The “provision of safety” is raised as a burden peculiar to the railway; I do not think that responsible motorists would be too keen on the suggestion of Mr Cross that they share the burden of the shortcomings of others.

Finally, it seems that we are going to be held hostage by a “truculent” work force. If I was a daily commuter to Edinburgh, I would be far more concerned by ever-escalating costs as I filled up the fuel tank of my car.

Richard Crockett

Vice-Chair Campaign for Borders Rail