The Campaign for Borders Rail – the successful pressure group seeking completion of the Borders Railway through Hawick to Carlisle – has been in significant dialogue with ministerial stakeholders, both in Holyrood and Westminster.
“We have succeeded in taking our message to key decision makers on both sides of the border,” said Marion Short, acting chair of the Campaign. “Coupled with our considerable ‘cut-through’ into the main parties’ manifestos for the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May, there is a hopeful and expectant mood about the Campaign.”
In a meeting convened by John Lamont, the MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, the Campaign met with Minister of State for Transport, Chris Heaton-Harris MP. The designated ‘Rail Minister’ related particularly to housing, employment, economic regeneration, tourism, timber and freight. Mr Heaton-Harris has particular insight into the rail industry, as he represents Daventry, the Midlands constituency which is home to Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal (DIRFT), the busiest modern terminal in the UK.
The Campaign has been concentrating on a raft of crucial consultations, including the Union Connectivity Review. In May, the Campaign met with Sir Peter Hendy, Chair of Network Rail, and Chair of the Union Connectivity Review – a Westminster commissioned examination of cross-border transport and communication links, with his final report available in August.
The Campaign’s newsletter – delivered to every member in the UK and abroad – also covers the further deterioration of Whitrope Tunnel. The structure is arguably the biggest civil engineering work on the 66-miles of the former Waverley Route, which the Campaign seeks to have re-established as a through route, serving the Borderlands and ensuring cross-border connectivity and a new strategic arm of the national rail network. Meetings are now taking place with Forestry & Land Scotland seeking better safeguarding of the tunnel ahead of its eventual re-engineering for the reopened line.
Scottish Borders Councillor Clair Ramage reports on community initiatives underway in and around Hawick, supporting the Campaign’s aims.
In the newsletter’s popular political forum columns, Rachael Hamilton, MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, calls the re-establishment of the railway “a vital catalyst for recovery”. Christine Grahame, MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, says there is “vision, justice, necessity” for building the line.
Writing of his experiences filming and presenting the Channel 5 series “Britain’s Lost Railways”, Campaign Patron, engineer and adventurer Rob Bell, says the passion in the Borders is for more than just a railway. “It was for everything the railway can bring to the community”.
The Campaign has also shuffled its own cabinet. Chair Simon Walton is moving to a Spokesperson role; Marion Short moving to Chair and Nick Bethune, the Campaign’s executive secretary taking on the Vice-Chair role. The Campaign is seeking an administrative secretary to assist Mr Bethune.
For further details and comment, contact Simon Walton on 07540 313018