Bonnyrigg rail route to close as passengers favour bus to the city

Bonnyrigg Railway Station
Bonnyrigg Railway Station

The proposed closure of the Bonnyrigg and Rosewell and Hawthornden Stations for passenger traffic is a cause for concern.

The Dalkeith Advertiser (September 21, 1961) reported that the closure plans in the fairly near future were a “distinct possibility”, according to a British Railways statement.

The issue came before at meeting of the General Purposes Committee of the Bonnyrigg and Lasswade Town Council.

The Advertiser reported: “The position in regard to the line at these points is to be reviewed later when the outcome of the present proposals to close the line to Peebles and Galashiels is known. It was pointed out that if this section is closed, Bonnyrigg and Rosewell would no longer have the benefit of these trains.

“The Town Council have been invited to make representations, if they wish to do so, to the Transport Users Consultative Committee on the closure of the line beyond Hawthornden. Full details of the traffic and the receipts and costs were given by the railway authorities and revealed that following the loss on this section, under steam, of over £50,000 in 1957, for the last three years a modern diesel service had been provided with a view to making it more economic, but even though there had been some increase in passengers, freight was practically non-existent, and the running of the line cost twice as much as earnings.

“It is a very difficult stretch, having 16-man operated level crossings in 33 miles. Peebles Burgh and County Councils and other bodies have already decided to protest at the closure and a letter from the Town Clerk of Peebles emphasised his burgh’s position as the county town and the tourist aspect.

“After a long discussion, when every member of the committee expressed regret that the service should be withdrawn, it was felt that no real case could be put forward if the line was to be run so as to pay its way. Provost Young said it would be a pity if all these branch lines supplying rural areas were to close.

“He understood that when the railways were nationalised it was to provide a service and not simply transport between the large towns and cities. Bailie John Moffat said he could not see any solution if the matter was judged from the economic point of view.

“There was something to be said for Provost Young’s opinion that the railways should provide a service and it may be that for national reasons, such as defence purposes, we should not allow the railways to be run down. If this were so, however, then the only way he could see the position being met could be by means of a subsidy. We should all have to pay.

“He thought that so far as Bonnyrigg was concerned, a very reasonable service had been supplied over the last few years, but the travelling public did not respond. Every time they had met the railway authority they had been told that the passenger increase had not been sufficient and they could not answer this. Whilst it was true that some people prefer to travel by train; it seemed to him, that many more preferred the bus because it was more convenient, carrying them almost from their own door to the particular part of the city to which they wanted to go.”

In other September 1961 news, the 15th annual open show of the Bonnyrigg and Lasswade Horticultural and Industrial Society was opened by Chic Murray, a top-of-the-bill stage, radio and television star.

Midlothian County Council is to erect a chain of 17 factories in Loanhead, following the industrial plans for Dalkeith where a start has been made on building a factory for Ferranti Ltd. The Loanhead scheme will cater for small firms.

Penicuik Town Council has voted five votes to four to go ahead with its £30,000 project to convert the Cowan Institute (the present town hall) into a municipal centre. The decision was reached despite pleas by senior members to think again before embarking on the project.