Bridge problem strengthens case for re-opening cross-Border rail line


News Release

22 January 2016


The closure for several weeks of the West Coast Main Line because of weather-related damage to a bridge carrying the railway over the Clyde at Lamington in South Lanarkshire strengthens the case for re-opening rail access between Edinburgh and Carlisle through Hawick.

That’s the view of the Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR) which seeks enhancement and extension of the Borders Railway that opened through Midlothian and part of the Scottish Borders last September.

“A wrong was committed against Scotland and the North of England in 1969 when the Waverley Route was closed between Edinburgh and Carlisle,” said Allan McLean, chairman of the CBR.

“Part of the old route was formally reopened by the Queen last year but now we want to see other communities reconnected to Edinburgh and Carlisle by train, including Hawick. The current terminus of the Borders Railway at Tweedbank between Galashiels and Melrose should only be regarded as temporary,” he added. “The case for reinstating tracks all the way from Tweedbank to Carlisle is strengthened by the news that closure of the other route between Edinburgh and Carlisle through Lockerbie will go on for longer than expected.”

“Alternative services between Carlisle and Glasgow have been provided because the diversionary route via Dumfries and Kilmarnock was kept. By contrast, passengers between North West England and Edinburgh are having to use rail-replacement buses or suffer lengthy detours.  If there was still a direct line of rails between the capital of Scotland and the Cumbrian city of Carlisle through the Scottish Borders, much damage to the economy could have been avoided.”

McLean said that the CBR supports proposals by politicians and others for extension of the Borders Railway and for detailed studies to be carried out into what should be done. He stressed that reconnecting more Borders communities directly to the rail network would provide an economic boost as well as offering flexibility for diversions when necessary.

Trains on the former Waverley Route ran from Edinburgh to Carlisle, a distance of almost 100 miles, for more than 100 years until closure in January 1969. That line through Galashiels, Melrose, Newtown St Boswells and Hawick offered the shortest rail distance between Edinburgh and Carlisle.

The Borders Railway between Edinburgh and Tweedbank uses a new trackbed out of Edinburgh and into Midlothian but otherwise follows a significant part of the old Waverley Route. In addition to intermediate stations on existing track at Brunstane and Newcraighall, stations were opened on the Borders Railway at Shawfair, Eskbank, Newtongrange, Gorebridge, Stow, Galashiels and Tweedbank.

Note to editors: Allan McLean of the Campaign for Borders Rail can be contacted by phone on

07531 129 892 or by email at

CBR warned ScotRail about high levels of demand

In response to claims by ScotRail that the level of interest in travelling on the new railway has been ‘remarkable’, CBR has pointed out that it warned the rail operator that it would need to pull out all the stops to ensure that travellers new to rail get the best possible experience in the first weeks of the Borders Railway. The opening week of the new railway has been fraught with too many late trains and too much overcrowding on trains restricted to 2 coaches rather than 4 or 6.

For a reminder of what CBR said in its 31st August press release, see: Press release 4 from Campaign for Borders Rail

‘Onwards to Hawick and Carlisle’ says CBR

In its sixth and final press release in a month-long programme of publicity, CBR has called for a renewed push to extend the line southwards from Tweedbank to Hawick and Carlisle. Reflected in our new slogan – ‘building on success’ – we expect the popularity of the Borders Railway to boost the case for further rail reinstatement.

For the full release, see: CBR new Press Release 6

Railway is a ‘unique grassroots achievement’, says CBR

The opening of the Borders Railway is a unique achievement of grassroots campaigning, says CBR in its latest press release in the lead-up to Sunday’s opening. We argue that the Borders Railway stands out from other recent Scottish line re-openings, as its original inspiration and key elements of the final delivered scheme came from the ideas and efforts of campaign groups.

For the full release, see: CBR Press Release 5

ScotRail must pull out all the stops, says CBR

Train operator ScotRail needs to pull out all the stops to ensure that travellers new to rail get the best possible experience in the first weeks of the Borders Railway, says CBR in its latest press release in the lead-up to the opening of the railway. CBR office-bearers last week met Phil Verster, Managing Director of the ScotRail / Network Rail Alliance, to press the case for extra coaches to be added to trains for several weeks after trains begin running on 6th September, and for additional staff to be deployed on station platforms to help out passengers unfamiliar with rail travel.

For the full release, see: Press release 4 from Campaign for Borders Rail

CBR ‘saved Government blushes on tourist traffic’

Tourist and leisure passengers – originally dismissed as of marginal importance – may now be a crucial factor in the success of the Borders Railway, says CBR in its latest press release. We argue that without our sustained campaigning to over-turn a downbeat verdict on tourist potential in the original railway feasibility study, the line would not have had enough track and platform capacity at Tweedbank for this crucial market. As a result, campaigners have ‘saved Scottish Government blushes’ over what would have been ‘an embarrassingly sub-optimal offer to the tourist market’.

For the full press release see: Aug 2015 CBR Release 3  

‘Danger that history gets rewritten’ says CBR

The key role played by community campaigners in the return of trains to the Borders should be properly acknowledged by the political establishment, says CBR in its latest press release. We say that ‘there is a danger that history gets rewritten so that the current Scottish Government gets all the credit for the Borders Railway, while the absolutely crucial role of unpaid grassroots campaigners over a 17-year period is forgotten’.

See the full release on CBR Press Release 2

CBR’s lessons for other campaigners ackowledged

CBR has urged campaigners lobbying for the re-opening of other rail lines in Scotland to learn the lessons of the 17-year Borders campaign culminating in the return of trains on 6th September 2015 – which CBR describes as ‘one of the greatest achievements of grassroots rail campaigning in British history’. And acknowledgment of our pioneering work has come from two campaigns in Fife which are hoping to be the next to put new routes on the Scottish railway map.

See: CBR Press Release 1

Rail author predicts Borders Railway tourist success

Launching the new edition of his book Waverley Route: the battle for the Borders Railway, author (and CBR activist) David Spaven argues that tourist and leisure passengers – originally dismissed as of marginal importance – may now be a crucial factor in the success of the Borders Railway: ‘The official traffic forecasts for the line are very conservative…and traffic modelling techniques really haven’t been able to address the non-commuting markets adequately…my feeling is that tourist and leisure passengers to the Borders stations and to Newtongrange – for the National Mining Museum – could be the key to the railway exceeding its patronage forecasts.’

David also praises the role of CBR in persuading the political establishment that tourism should be a central factor in the promotion of the railway, adding that ‘it would be good to see the key successes of Borders rail campaigners – largely unsung over the years – properly acknowledged during the re-opening celebrations on 4th to 6th September.’

Waverley Route: the battle for the Borders Railway – which is a 272-page paperback with a revised selection of over 100 illustrations – incorporates fresh archive material from the 1960s and reveals new insider insights into the political tensions throughout the 21-year battle to re-open the railway. It is available from Argyll Publishing on:

CBR claims another campaign success

The ScotRail trains to be operated on the Borders Railway will be refurbished in line with units serving scenic Highland routes. CBR’s packed AGM in Gala on 6th November applauded the announcement by Mike Kean – UK Rail Development Director of Dutch company Abellio who take over the ScotRail franchise next May – that, in response to a request from Transport Scotland, the trains will be upgraded like units serving the Far North and Kyle lines.

Although not all will be refurbished in time for the start of Borders Railway service, this is very welcome news, and represents another campaign success for CBR. The Inverness-based Class 158s have a spacious ambience, with good alignment of seats to windows, plus additional space for bikes and luggage.
Simon Walton, chairman of CBR responded that refurbished trains would provide a much better experience for commuters and visitors alike. “We’ve lobbied for better trains all along,” he said. “This refurbishment announcement is seen as the latest significant success for our continued campaigning work.”

The full CBR release is on:

CBR 2014 AGM release

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