CAMPAIGN FOR BORDERS RAILPRESS RELEASE
17 June 2019
Political prevarication prompts Campaign funding launch
The Campaign for Borders Rail has responded in generally positive terms to the news that electrifcation is on the agenda for the Borders Railway, as reported in The Scotsman (https://www.scotsman.com/news/transport/scottish-government-is-considering-plans-to-electrify-the-borders-railway-1-4948207)
Additionally, the influential lobbying organisation has launched its widest ever funding appeal, aimed at hastening the extension of the Borders Railway from Tweedbank, through Hawick and on to Carlisle, providing an economic lifeline for the Borders, and a new strategic arm of the national rail network. The funding initiative comes on the back of what the Campaign calls a political wrestling match, leading to delay and obfuscation.
In the Campaign’s latest newsletter (number 59), being delivered to all 1,500 members this week, Chair of the Campaign Simon Walton says that despite being closer than ever in the Campaign’s twenty-year history, there could be a wall of resistance building up. In a leader column, he says that there is too little evidence of progress. “Despite encouraging words from political offices, Borders’ communities are in danger of being spectators to would-be decision makers, posturing around in the ring, and taunting each other. We don’t want to see a political wrestling match, leading to delay and obfuscation.”
Mr Walton goes on to say that launching the Campaign’s ‘Onward to Carlisle Fund’ will help see their ambition of a modern, cross-border rail service, supporting economic development, social inclusion and environmental sustainability established within years, not decades. “We need to take our message further into the national agenda,” he said.
Also in the newsletter, Vice Chair Marion Short makes a detailed analysis of the state of cross-border political support. Recent ministerial meetings in Westminster and Holyrood have advanced Campaign initiatives and raised awareness. However, she feels that there is still much work to be done, to mesh together the approaches of the Scottish Government, the UK Government, and the overarching Borderlands Growth Deal. “We fear that rail extension plans will become mired in bureaucracy and it would be our wish that the politicians take charge of the process,” she said.
In a guest newsletter column, Carlisle MP and Borderlands Growth Champion John Stevenson, recognised that rail communications serve an important logistical purpose, and also have a hugely significant cultural impact on the communities they serve. “Few countries have been shaped by the railways like ours – acting like an artery for ideas and progression,” he said. Referring to the infamous report which cut off that lifeblood in 1969, with the closure of the entire network in the Borders, he added: “It’s why the Beeching cuts were felt so deeply. It’s why the Campaign for Borders Rail exists today. It is why the argument for the Borders Railway extension must be economic – but also cultural.”
Later this week, a top-level Campaign delegation and counterparts at Transport Scotland are scheduled for their latest meeting. “Again we will have the opportunity to put our views forward for a stand-alone project for railway extension,” added Marion Short, underlining the part the Campaign plays in promoting cooperation between all decision-making stakeholders.
For images and more information contact Simon Walton below. A business case briefing produced by the Campaign is available on request.
Simon Walton, chairman