More than a million passenger journeys have been made on the Borders Railway line in its first year – and it’s on track to get even more with a new input of cash to promote the service.
Midlothian Council agreed on Tuesday to invest another £450,000 to make the most of the economic opportunities brought to the region by the Borders Railway, which celebrates its first anniversary this month.
The line has already had a big impact on everything from high tech and tourism businesses to student commuters and families.
Take for example the Old Millhouse, a five-star, three-and-a-half acre retreat in Dalkeith which will soon be tapping into the rail link to offer bespoke, upmarket fishing trips.
“Guests can spend the first day with our ghillie fishing in our grounds for brown trout and then on the second day, I can take them to Eskbank Station, five minutes away, where they can jump on the train and be met at Tweedbank for a day of salmon fishing on the Tweed” said owner Sally de Waard.
But the line is already a draw, with Sally’s last two groups of visitors all using it to head up to Edinburgh for a day out.
Telecoms and utilities company TenTel is also celebrating an important anniversary. A year ago the firm moved into its headquarters at Shawfair.
Currently with around 90 staff, managing director Robert McKechnie has plans to expand with another 100 new jobs.
He said: “One of the reasons we moved here was because of its location and the opportunities the railway can bring. We feel that as 4000 planned homes are built and all the necessary infrastructure such as the pathways, lighting and amenities come along, it will be a huge recruitment bonus for us.”
New housing served by the Borders Railway station at Gorebridge was a major factor in Mel Scrimgeour’s decision to open a private nursery in the town just minutes from the station.
Mel said: “The fact you can get affordable housing and be in the centre of Edinburgh in about 20 minutes is a big attraction. A lot of our parents walk here in the morning park the buggy and then go on to the station.”
She added: “We’ve also taken the nursery children on the train to a storytelling session at the mining museum at Newtongrange.”
Solicitors and estate agency McQueen Legal took over the offices in Gorebridge last year and the Borders Railway was a major factor.
Angela Laird, property manager, said: “It is a growing area and McQueen Legal was keen to take part in a growth opportunity.”
Angela, who lives in Gorebridge, said: “The Borders Railway is a fantastic selling point for properties across Midlothian.”
But the Borders Railway is about people as well as businesses. Cerys Hares (12) has a special reason to remember the opening of Newtongrange Station a year ago – she was chosen to present the Queen with flowers.
Now she and mum Gillian are now regular passengers on the line. Cerys was chosen because she took the top prize in her primary school’s Borders Railway poster competition.
The launch of the Borders Railway has made a big different to those travelling to work and study at Edinburgh College, with Eskbank Station at its Midlothian Campus and Milton Road Campus served by Brunstane Station.
Robert Ody (18), studying an HND in Mechanical Engineering, uses the railway to get to college from Edinburgh.
He said: “It’s brilliant. I can get straight to Waverley from the college campus.”
Thomas Stainer (19), also studying an HND in Mechanical Engineering, uses the train to travel to Eskbank from his home in Jedburgh.
Thomas said: “I’ve been using the train to get to college since the day it opened last year and it has made my life so much easier. Getting the bus from Jedburgh would take over two hours whereas I can get here by train in 40 minutes.”
But there is also a lot of family fun going on.
Isobel Allen won a ‘Golden Ticket’ for the first journey and then she and her family brought a touch of ‘golden glamour’ to Borders Railway community events last year by wearing eye-catching hats made from Golden Tickets.
Isobel, who manages Mayfield Library, said winning a Golden Ticket for the first journey on the train was “absolutely fantastic”.
She said of her trip from Newtongrange Station with sister Jan Guild, niece Kayleigh and sister-in-law Marie Allen: “When we got on the train, there was such excitement and a great atmosphere. It reminded me of how I used to feel when, as a family, we would head off on the train to our holidays to Rothesay.”
Isobel said the Borders Railway has made a big impact on her travel habits.
She said: “I use it all the time to travel to Edinburgh. I never take the car or bus now. I jump on the train at Eskbank or Newtongrange and I’m in the city in 20 minutes.”
Another Golden Ticket winner – and third generation British Rail employee – is John Gilhooly, from Eskbank, who is delighted to wish the Borders Railway a very happy first birthday.
Mr Gilhooly, who worked as a booking clerk on the Waverley Line from 1950 to 1971, said: “Cathy, my wife, and I left from the Shawfair station. There was a chap on the train I’d worked with years ago – we blethered all the way down.”
Mr Gilhooly was also chosen to be presented to the Queen when she officially opened Newtongrange Station last September.
He said: “It was a very memorable time.”