All aboard! Trains will be operational on the Borders Railway from September 6, 2015, First Minister Alex Salmond said yesterday. The news has been warmly welcomed – the new thirty mile rail route is expected to be hugely popular and will give a significant boost to the local economy.
The First Minister also announced a feasibility study, led by Scottish Enterprise in partnership with VisitScotland, Scottish Borders Council and Transport Scotland, to look at how the Borders Railway will transform the tourism potential of the region.
The study will also look at tourist opportunities from any future development of the line, including the potential for a turntable and the creation of a permanent home at Tweedbank Station for the Great Tapestry of Scotland, the world’s longest embroidered tapestry, reflecting the textile heritage of the area.
Mr Salmond went on to announce plans to maximise the tourist potential of the line by introducing a steam train experience – which could benefit the local economy by many millions of pounds a year. The steam train experience will start in September next year.
The First Minister met with members of Scottish Borders Council, Great Tapestry of Scotland trustees, members of the Borders Tourism Industry and members of the Waverley Route Heritage Association in Tweedbank yesterday.
Speaking from the site of Tweedbank Station, the First Minister said: “From September 2015 – for the first time in almost half a century – there will be passenger train services running on this track.
“For commuters and tourists alike, the reopened line will provide opportunities to enjoy the many fantastic attractions and experiences on offer in the Borders.
“We can expect the Scottish economy to benefit by tens of millions of pounds from the regular train line. The feasibility study will look at how the area can benefit from the railway. With a dedicated tourist service and the attraction of the Great Tapestry of Scotland to be based at Tweedbank, more people than ever will get to visit and enjoy Scotland’s stunning Borders.
“There will be few railway journeys anywhere in Europe to match the outstanding scenery along the route of the new Borders Railway. I have no doubt that Borders Railway will be profoundly successful and I will be one of the first in line for a ticket when the trains are running in September next year.”
Other measures have also been announced to help boost the tourism potential of the new railway. These include:
- The platform at Galashiels Station will be extended to accommodate longer tourist train, allowing passengers to alight and enjoy the town centre
- A new footpath will be constructed at Newtongrange Station to enable direct access for users of regular rail services to the award-winning Scottish Mining Museum
- Wifi connectivity will be available at all seven stations on the route of the railway
- A train will be covered in special livery advertising the tourist potential of the Borders.
Cllr. David Parker, Leader Scottish Borders Council said: “I am delighted that the First Minister is able to come to the Borders today and announce significant plans to further strengthen the tourism potential of the Borders railway. The Scottish Government’s commitment to steam and charter trains is extremely welcome and will be a fantastic boost to the Borders economy.
“The First Minister’s pledge to work jointly with the Council to deliver the Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre and other improvements is fantastic news. This underlines the very substantial support that the Scottish Government have shown to the Borders Railway project.
“I truly believe that this is going to be a very special railway line that will attract a great many visitors as it is an outstanding scenic journey.
Having the Great Tapestry of Scotland situated at the Tweedbank terminus telling the 420 million year history of Scotland is something that will be very special indeed. A great many people will take the ‘Train to the Tapestry’ and also visit the Borders and our many other attractions.”
Mike Cantlay, Chairman of VisitScotland said: “The new Borders Railway presents a huge opportunity for Scottish tourism. The scenery from Edinburgh through Midlothian down to the Scottish Borders and back again is remarkable and I have no doubt that visitors will make the journey just for the experience as well as to visit the many attractions along the way, including the National Mining Museum Scotland at Newtongrange and Abbotsford House.
“The romanticism captured by steam trains will give the route added value, following in the tracks of the Jacobite steam train journey from Fort William to Mallaig which welcomes thousands of visitors every year.
“We are excited that we are moving ever closer to the launch of this magnificent new line and will be working with partners over the coming months to ensure the tourism potential of the Borders Railway is fully realised, encouraging visitors to explore yet more of Scotland’s beautiful urban and rural landscapes.”
Alistair Moffat, co-chairman of the GTS Trustees said: “Four years ago, work on the Great Tapestry of Scotland began – in the Borders. When Sandy McCall Smith had the idea and asked me to start working on the narrative, I did that work at my house near Selkirk. And it is very fitting and satisfying that a work of art that has been made all over Scotland, stitched by a thousand Scots, should come back home to the Borders, the place where Scotland’s textile industry saw its fullest flowering.
“As Co-Chairman of the trustees I want to thank David Parker, the Leader of Scottish Borders Council and the First Minister, Alex Salmond, for their vision and imagination in creating a partnership to give this great work of art a permanent home in the Borders. And for knowing a good thing when they see it. I also want to thank my wife, Lindsay. When she came up with the phrase ‘a train to the tapestry’, I knew it would happen.
“This is a unique project, a history of Scotland made by a thousand Scots who, from Caithness to Galloway, stitched our national story. I find myself immensely moved and proud to be a citizen of a nation that is capable of producing such a stunning account of its history. It is done with pride, certainly, but also with passion and love. And that is what gives it such power. When the tapestry makes those who see it glow, they are glowing because they intuit that it was made with love, the love of Scotland.”
He said: “The 5 star mining museum is just one of scores of attractions here in Midlothian. We sit just 10 miles south of Edinburgh city centre and the county is steeped in history, picturesque villages and wonderful scenery.
“The station itself will potentially bring enormous economic benefits to the area and to hear Transport Scotland is now funding a path straight to one of our most fascinating museums is great news for the museum in particular and tourism in general.
“I am looking forward immensely to the re-opening of the railway when the museum and lots of local businesses will be making visitors, new and old, very welcome.”
Catherine Maxwell Stewart, Tourism Business representative on the Scottish Borders Community Planning Partnership said: “The Borders Railway offers a fantastic opportunity for local tourism businesses to attract new visitors to the area and to offer them exciting, new experiences.
“The Scottish Borders has so much to offer visitors, whether they are here for a day, or for a week. I am sure that this new link from the heart of the city to the heart of Scott’s Country will be a catalyst for our local tourism sector, with benefits rolling out across much of the area. Today’s announcement will really help to put the Borders on the map as a tourist destination for all. ”