PRESS RELEASE 1100hrs, 14 May 2016
A Huge Insult To Scotland
Campaigners say Network Rail has completely failed to understand the vast ramifications of cancelling the Flying Scotsman visit to Borders and calls for a public enquiry.
Campaign for Borders Rail says nothing short of a public enquiry will satisfy the anger felt across the community at the failure by Network Rail to make the necessary preparations of the visit of Flying Scotsman to the Borders Railway. In a statement, the Campaign said Network Rail was paid public money to build the Borders Railway and make it suitable for Flying Scotsman and other steam locomotives to make occasional journeys to help boost Scottish tourism.
Allan McLean, Chairman of the Campaign for Borders Rail, noted: “Network Rail says it never had enough time to arrange for an event a lot of people had been looking forward to for months. Network Rail is using its own incompetence to try to justify the unjustifiable. There’s a two-word Scottish response to this insult: Aye, right!”
Allan McLean added there was no excuse for this failure to perform the job the infrastructure company was employed to do. “This is a massive insult to Scotland,” he said. “From the distant vantage point of Network Rail HQ in Milton Keynes, this represents nothing more than yet another administrative error resulting in the cavalier cancellation of a charter train, for which several hundred people have paid premium fares to enjoy a spacial day out. What they have totally failed to comprehend is the iconic nature of this particular visit, and the tens of thousands of visitors this particular occasion would bring to the Borders.”
The Campaign, which is still working vigorously to see the Borders Railway extended through Hawick to Carlisle, has been heavily involved in lobbying for charter facilities on the railway and is actively engaged in the tourism effort for the line.
Simon Walton, past chairman and the Campaign’s representative on the Scottish Borders Tourism Partnership, articulated the wider implications of this cancellation. “It’s not just the passengers on the charter and the organisers and operators of the train that have been inexcusably let down,” he said. “The whole Borders community has gotten behind the tourism potential of the line. This excursion represented one of the biggest opportunities yet to use the line as a huge tourism boost for the Borders.”
Mr Walton added: “Far more than a charter train, of which there have been many already on the line, this was a showcase event, particularly for the town of Galashiels, where huge effort has gone into promoting and commemorating the visit. This has let down residents, businesses, local authorities and tens of thousands of would-be visitors. It’s a massive publicly blow for the Borders. Network Rail cannot be allowed to stand aloof from this deplorable dereliction of duty.”
Allan McLean noted that given the public funding of the railway, and the leading role taken by Network Rail, their behaviour must be brought to account. “This is a huge insult to Scotland by an organisation that has zero credibility, unalloyed by its huge efforts to spin its repeated failures in many aspects of running and developing the national railway network. There must be corporate accountability to the people of the Borders and Scotland, and individuals must pay with their careers for this gross incompetence. We demand the regulator, the Office of Rail and Road, investigate their conduct, and a public enquiry needs to be convened so this autonomous juggernaut is brought to book.”
Allan McLean, CBR Chairman 07531 129892
Simon Walton, CBR Spokesman 07540 313018
Notes to Editors
The Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR), established in 1998, is one of Britain’s most successful grassroots rail campaigns. CBR’s initial aim will be realised on 6th September 2015 when ScotRail services begin running over the new Borders Railway from Tweedbank and Galashiels to Edinburgh – bringing trains back after an absence of more than 45 years. CBR’s next objective is to see the railway extended to Hawick and Carlisle, completing the return of the Waverley Route closed in 1969 as part of the ‘Beeching cuts’ – which saw the Borders become the only region of Britain without a rail service, and left Galashiels and Hawick further from the rail network than any other towns of their size in Britain. www.campaignforbordersrail.org .
As well as the core strategic achievement of the return of a railway from Edinburgh through Midlothian to Tweedbank, local rail campaigners – notably CBR, Stow Station Supporters Group and the Waverley Route Trust – can take credit for some important supporting successes, a number of them achieved in the face of official resistance:
first coining the ‘Borders Railway’ name (in 2003)
persuading Parliament to include a station stop at Stow when none was to be provided (the Scottish Parliament passed the Waverley Railway (Scotland) Act in 2006)
saving of the original 1849 station building at Stow from demolition (2011), with the potential for beneficial community re-use
Tweedbank station track layout redesigned to take 12-coach tourist trains, providing the basic infrastructure needed to bring additional tourist spend to the Borders (2012)
a requirement for the new ScotRail train operator to accommodate ‘paths’ for tourist charter trains to fit in with the regular service timetable (2013)
cutting the maximum waiting time at the A7 pedestrian crossing from bus to rail stations in Gala from 90 to 30 seconds, improving convenience and safety for rail passengers (2013)
the first train of the day to Edinburgh retimed to provide a robust connection into the 06.25 service to London (2014)
persuading Transport Scotland that the Class 158 trains should be refurbished to provide better window/seat matching and enhanced luggage/cycle space (2014).