Living and working in the Scottish Borders is sure to get a whole lot easier. For after 44 years without a rail link the area’s famous Waverley Line is about to be reinstated.
Axed as part of the infamous Beeching cuts in 1969, the closure of the popular Waverley Line was always controversial. Linking Edinburgh, Midlothian and Carlisle it provided a direct route through the Scottish Borders.
Now the 98-mile track is set to enjoy a new lease of life which could not only boost the local economy but also create plenty of new job opportunities along the way.
Work on the revamped rail link is already well underway and the first part of the track is due to open in June 2015. Built by Network Rail, the line will serve a combined population of around 200,000 people in the Scottish Borders and Midlothian.1
Stopping at a total of ten stations the route will include plenty of key market towns in the area, including Newtongrange, Gorebridge, Galashiels and Tweedbank.
When the new Waverley Line is eventually finished it will become the longest new domestic railway to be built in the UK for over a century.2
For residents and workers who have been stuck without local rail services for over four decades this can only be good news. When the track was originally axed, journey times doubled overnight and communities suddenly found themselves almost isolated from Scotland’s capital city. The borders became the only area in the whole of the UK without a rail link.
Cut off from Edinburgh to the north and Carlisle to the south, many people opted to travel by bus. But even today the main bus service to Edinburgh still takes longer than a Victorian steam train and double the time of a commuter train in 1968.3
Without the new Waverley Line, commuters could easily spend up to an hour and a half simply travelling from Galashiels to Edinburgh.
*Figures from First Bus, the AA and Borders Railway.
Despite protests, demonstrations and even petitions to Downing Street, local residents could not save the line from closing in the 1960s. In recent years however Border communities have been much more successful in outlining just how important the Waverley Line is to local life.
As well as lowering travel times to and from the capital, the line is sure to lead to an increase in people moving to the area. At the moment, many young people leave the Borders in order to find jobs in the central belt and beyond. As a result there are plenty of towns and villages in the area with an ageing population.
With a regular train service daily commuting is destined to become much more viable – making living and working in the Scottish Borders a lot easier. For existing businesses it will surely see an increase in footfall, potentially widening their existing customer base. Local companies could see themselves grow in size and as a direct consequence, create more job opportunities in the area.
Campaigners have even highlighted the possibility of major businesses and firms relocating some of their operations from Edinburgh to the Borders – taking full advantage of the restated Waverley Line and lower rental costs.
According to the most recent figures available, there are far more people in the region employed in manufacturing, construction and agricultural related industries than in the rest of Scotland.
Creating better transport links could therefore boost job opportunities in other vital sectors such as banking and communications.
The Borders tourism industry is another important sector which is sure to benefit from a direct rail link from Edinburgh. Over nine million people arrive at Edinburgh Airport every year to explore all that Scotland has to offer.4 With a modern rail link the Borders is likely to enjoy an increase in both domestic and foreign visitors.
Throughout the boom in international travel over the last four decades the Borders has largely had to rely on people travelling to the area by car or bus.
A direct rail link to the Borders from Edinburgh will increase the likelihood of more day trippers – both from home and abroad – travelling to the area. The Borders could also take in some of the capital’s sports tourists, especially when large rugby or football events take place in the city. For worldwide events like The Open Golf Championship, it could completely revolutionise current transport provision.
The potential impact on tourism has already been calculated as part of the initial investigation into the re-opening of the Waverley Line. Taking everything into consideration the area could enjoy an economic boost of anything between £694,022 and £1,826,905 in tourism alone.5
Similar studies have also predicted up to £4.9 million could be generated in the Borders thanks to the impact of the Waverley Line.6
The re-opening of the line will not only encourage more people to visit the Borders and Midlothian but help local people enjoy greater access to the capital.
With better transport links residents can access jobs in Edinburgh with higher wages without having to endure long commuting times. Greater demand to live in the Borders could also give a welcome boost to the house building industry – creating potential for yet more investment and employment opportunities in the area.
As one of the most picturesque areas in Scotland, it’s easy to see why so many people would choose to live in the Borders. When the rail link is eventually reinstated it will remove one of the biggest obstacles people face when considering a move to the area.
After years of protests and struggle an area encompassing 4,742.65 square kilometres is finally rejoining Scotland’s rail network. With so much to gain it’s only a matter of time before the Borders begins to reap all the economic rewards.
Updated on the Waverley Route:
Scottish Rail campaigners are asking the Scottish government to start planning an 18-mile extension of the Waverley Route to Hawick which is due to re-open in 2015 .Work is already underway on the Line which has been closed for nearly 40 years.
Campaign for borders rail (CBR) the campaign body is putting forward a case for extending the line to Hawick to transform its “accessibility and attraction”.
The Government body, Transport Scotland said this possibility had been previously examined but was not recommended.
The CBR argues Hawick was the “biggest loser” when the Waverley line from Edinburgh to Carlisle closed in 1969 requiring those wanting to travel to the Capital to take a bus, which takes more than two hours.
CBR Spokesman, Simon Walton, said the Hawick population had declined since the line was closed – losing its status as the largest town in the Borders to Galashiels.
“Two generations of Hawick people have missed out on the opportunities for access to education, employment and involvement in rail-based tourism which they would have enjoyed if the railway to Edinburgh had not been closed in 1969,” he said.
But Current plans will see a “transport interchange” built at Galashiels but would Walton said that it would not deliver the “step-change” which would be enjoyed by Galashiels, Stow and Tweedbank.The interchange would see bus services every half hour between Hawick and and Selkirk meeting all train services.
The CBR are demanding the government does a full cost analysis of the costs and benefits of such a move which would see a rail link from Hawick to Edinburgh .
The rail development has witnessed many new jobs anticipating that around 500 will have been created till the date of re-opening in 2015.
1. Transport Scotland http://www.transportscotland.gov.uk/news/Transport-Minister-timetable-delivery-Borders-Railway
2. The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/mar/02/beeching-wrong-about-britains-railways
3. First Bus http://www.firstgroup.com/ukbus/scotland_east/journey_planning/timetables/index.php?going_to=edinburgh&depart_from=Galashiels+%28Bus+Station%29&operator=25&page=1&redirect=no
4. Halcrow Group http://www.halcrow.com/Our-projects/Project-details/Edinburgh-Airport-Scotland/
5. The Reopening of The Waverly Line by The Market Specialists www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/…/waverlyRB/…/Appendix%209
6. Economic impact Assessment by DTZ Pieda for Scottish Parliament www.scottish.parliament.uk/…/Waverley%20Railway%20(Scotland)%20