Borders-to-Edinburgh railway opens as longest UK line in century

  • Published
Media caption,
The first commuters board the train from Edinburgh to Tweedbank as the Borders railway reopens after 46 years

Trains have returned to the Scottish Borders after 46 years with the opening of the longest new domestic railway built in Britain for over a century.

The new Borders Railway runs between Tweedbank and Edinburgh and was built at a cost of £294m.

Hundreds of people queued up at Tweedbank station on Sunday morning to be the first passengers on board.

Some arrived at 05:00 to secure their place in the line, and had travelled from as far south as Kent.

The old Waverley Line through the region shut in 1969.

On the train, Cameron Buttle, BBC Scotland

The first train from platform one on the Borders Rail line for more than 46 years was due to leave Tweedbank at 08:45 but hundreds had been queuing for hours before - some as early as 05:00.

Some had travelled from as far as Kent to share in a special piece of railway history.

On board, champagne corks popped and cheers went up as the train pulled out to head up the 30 miles of track.

Hundreds more people gathered to wave and cheer as the train filled up at the eight stations on its route before its final stop an hour later in Edinburgh Waverley.

David Spaven, author of a book about the route, described the opening as the "astonishing achievement" of a project which had been dismissed by many.

Services will run every half-hour during the day on weekdays and take under an hour to travel the full length of the line.

Special passengers with golden tickets were able to travel the route on Saturday while the Queen will carry out an official opening on Wednesday - the day she becomes Britain's longest serving monarch.

The Scottish government has said it believed the line can boost local economies in Midlothian and the Scottish Borders.

Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown said it was a chance to access "new work, learning and social opportunities, as well as new business and industry links".

"The Borders Railway has become a symbol of this golden age for Scotland's railways, and it will be the vehicle for a new prosperity for the communities on the route," he said.

Image source, Peter Devlin
Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The Queen will officially be opening the line on Wednesday as she become's Britain's longest-serving monarch

Mike Cantlay, Chairman of VisitScotland, said the start of services was a "truly historic moment" for Scotland.

It is hoped one million passengers a year will be using the railway within five years of it opening.

Mr Spaven said it was a historic day as Galashiels and Hawick would lose their "unwanted status" of being further from the rail network than any other towns of their size in Britain.

"Experience from other Scottish rail re-openings - and the special opportunities for tourist and leisure traffic on this route - suggest that the trains will be very popular and encourage a significant shift from road to rail," he said.

Growing demand

He added that with significant numbers of people in the Borders not owning a car it could provide a "step-change in terms of social inclusion".

He said it could see more businesses and people move to the Borders and Midlothian as well as enhancing tourism prospects.

Mr Spaven concluded it would "partially put right one of the great wrongs of the old model of London-based transport policy".

The Campaign For Borders Rail has welcomed the opening as "one of the greatest achievements of grassroots rail campaigning in British history".

However, it has raised concerns about how the network would cope with growing demand.

Simon Walton, chairman of the group, said the "whole concept of future-proofing" was something they felt had not been addressed adequately.

Its main concern is the reduction of the length of double track on the line, which it said did not leave a "great margin for error" in maintaining the scheduled service.

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