Stow generates optimistic case for extension
The vastly-better passenger figures for central Borders stations than was forecast come as no surprise to those of us who lobbied over many years for the return of the railway.
The figures for Stow are particularly gratifying and vindicate the local campaign which we waged during the early years of the 21st century – I should perhaps remind your readers that if it had been down to officialdom, there would would been no station here, and it was only thanks to our own efforts and the more enlightened attitude of the parliamentary committee dealing with the Waverley Railway Bill that a station was eventually provided.
Not that I would want to be too hard on the Waverley Railway Partnership (including, of course, Scottish Borders Council) as I have no doubt that it was the civil servants in the then Scottish Executive who were setting the agenda, and providing stations at smaller communities just didn’t fit with their view of what railways were for. Their ideology was readily justified by “black-box” modelling – going back to the Scott-Wilson report of 2000, Stow was forecast to produce only five return journeys a day to Edinburgh, and could be easily dismissed as a no-hoper on that basis.
Even in the final business case of 2013, only 17 daily return journeys were envisaged, yet the figures you published demonstrate an actual usage over the first six months of four times that number.
Of course, forecasting the future is always going to be an inexact science, but it’s perhaps a question of using the consultants with the right expertise. The consultant who analysed the data collected by the Campaign for Borders Rail/Stow Community Council survey of 2001/02 (which covered Lauder, Clovenfords and Fountainhall, as well as Stow itself, and elicited more than 650 responses) concluded that: “With even a cautious interpretation of the survey results, it is possible to envisage some 100 daily return journeys originating at Stow station”.
I must admit to having been rather cautious about using the 100 figure, and I was much happier to quote the 50 return journeys which the O’Neill Transport Consultancy came up with, using theoretical modelling, in a piece of work done for the Waverley Route Trust in 2003. In the event, it now looks as if the survey conclusions are not very far off the mark, and that the 100 figure may eventually be achieved.
The important point here for the future is that when the options for extending the line south to Hawick and beyond are examined, the right consultant using the relevant methodology for a rural situation is employed – conventional railway planning wisdom says that no community of less than 5,000 residents justifies a station, yet this would rule out Melrose, Newtown and Newcastleton straight away, despite these places all having been served by the principal expresses over the old Waverley railway route.
(one-time co-ordinator of the Stow Station
MSP John Lamont (and by implication, his Tory colleague, David Mundell MP also) advocates an integrated transport network for the Borders (Southern, June 2).
Good thinking – but the only trouble is that the current statutory public transport regime is a direct legacy of the Transport Act passed by a Conservative government. That legislated for a free-for-all, competitive scenario, with operators prohibited from talking to each other about routes, fares, frequencies and anything else relevant, as such collusion would fly in the face of the principle of unfettered competition.
They established the Monopolies and Mergers Commission to police this principle, and indeed that body remains to this day, albeit reconstituted as the Competition and Markets Authority.
All this precluded integration to any meaningful extent.
A pity John Lamont conveniently overlooked all this just so that he could score political points.
An element of impunity?
I was dismayed to read in last week’s issue that a man who admitted being threatening or abusive towards his wife was granted an absolute discharge by Sheriff Kevin Drummond.
Much was made of the fact that the perpetrator had been off work with stress pending the court case and the cost to the NHS of locum cover during that period, with very little mention of the fear and distress his wife and family had been subjected to.
This raises the question of whether there exists an element of impunity for those who have well-paid jobs when it comes to appropriate punishment for breaking the law.
Sheriff Drummond’s comments regarding the current policy relating to domestic incident cases appeared inflammatory, provocative and misogynistic.
His comment that the man was “an otherwise respectable and law-abiding person” was, frankly, beyond belief. A drunk-driver who accidentally knocks over and kills a child could very well be “an otherwise respectable and law-abiding person”, but would undoubtedly be expected to be punished for the crime he committed.
I note that Sheriff Drummond said he expected criticism from “those who are most vocal on domestic cases” – but he deserves criticism from any right-minded Borderer.
This is a disgrace.
Brexit could end the UK
It would appear that Northern Ireland is pushing for a referendum to remain within the European Union.
There will be no United Kingdom if ‘Leave’ manage to win via the UK mainland. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will each vote to remain.
But if Scotland and Northern Ireland both left the UK, remaining in the EU, that would be the end of the United Kingdom – a disaster which Brexit would be responsible for.
Have they even contemplated it? – I doubt it. Perhaps that’s what Boris and Co. would like. The London Bubble has no care for either of us.
And our borders – what a joke.
The two individuals who were caught with 20 or so immigrants crossing the Channel clearly demonstrates that we cannot patrol our coastline under any circumstances.
Without intelligence and co-operation from our partners in Europe, our borders are wide open and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Leave the European Union? – what a joke.
Spotlight on Borders poet
Border poet William Henry Ogilvie was born at Holefield farm, near Kelso, on August 21, 1869.
After completing his education at Fettes College, he was sent to Australia to a large sheep station where he became a drover and horse breaker.
It was there that he served his poetic apprenticeship and achieved national status as a bush balladist, right up there with his Australian contemporaries, including “Banjo” Paterson, the man who gave the world “Waltzing Matilda”.
What Kipling was to the old Indian empire and what Robert Service was to the Yukon, Will H. Ogilvie was to the Australian bush.
After 11 years Down Under, he returned to Scotland in 1901, eventually marrying and settling at Kirklea, Ashkirk, to the life of a freelance writer.
The ballads of the bush were replaced by poems of the Border country such as “The Raiders” and “The Road to Roberton”, which have made him the area’s greatest ambassador in verse. In all, he published 20 books of poems.
Will H. Ogilvie was a literary genius. He did not get the plaudits he deserved from his own countrymen in his lifetime, but his legacy lives on and will do for as long as his poetry wings its way down the generations to all who cherish in their hearts a love like his for the Scottish Borderland.
The Will H. Ogilvie Memorial Trust has various plans to mark the sesquicentenary of the poet’s birth in 2019. These include a major exhibition of his life and works in the Heritage Hub in Hawick.
The trust would be interested to hear from anyone who has Ogilvie artefacts or memorabilia which they would be willing to lend for the exhibition, or deposit in the Heritage Hub for safe keeping.
I can be contacted for more information via email at email@example.com.
Mrs P.A. Holt
Cameron Gunn festival
Can I thank each and every parent in the Borders, along with the coaches, team officials and office-bearers of the Scottish Borders Junior Football Association who worked together to make the Cameron Gunn Festival of Football such a success when it was staged on Sunday, June 5, at Netherdale in Galashiels.
This year is the 25th anniversary of Cameron’s death and since his workmates and friends played the first game on the tiny pitch between Clovenfords and Caddonfoot following that event, there has been a reminder each year of the young man who died playing the game he loved.
Youngsters who play in the very junior ties from their earliest years never knew Cameron, but all of them aspire to be the best they can be for their respective clubs, so that they can be picked for the team to go to the “Cameron Gunn” day in Galashiels.
A special thanks to Gala Fairydean Rovers for hosting the u13s to u17s on the marvellous 3G Arena and to all from what is now Live Borders, led by Drew Kelly, for inspiring the younger players on almost all of the rest of Netherdale.
Two thousand participants is a huge number of footballers taking part in the biggest one-day event in Europe, and I know that Cameron would be so proud to see what is being done in his name a quarter of a century after his own footballing career ended so tragically.
Wilma B. Gunn MBE
(The Cameron Gunn