Has the Borders Railway delivered for Midlothian?
When the Queen officially opened the Borders Railway on September 9, 2015, it was widely hoped that the new line would transform Midlothian. But five years on has it done so?
Trains returned to the county following a long campaign to re-open the former Waverley Line, which was closed in 1969.
Half a decade on, local people have been reflecting on what, if any, difference the Borders Railway has made.
Midlothian Council Leader, Councillor Derek Milligan (Lab) said: “The beneficial impacts of the railway in Midlothian include new start up and expanded businesses as well as continued growth in the tourism sector. In addition, local communities along the line such as Gorebridge and Newtongrange are due to benefit from part of the overall £10 million fund for projects to capitalise on the opportunities presented by the railway.
“As with any major new transport infrastructure, there have been matters of concern. Since coming into operation the council has consistently pressed Scotrail/Abellio on quality of service, most notably in terms of punctuality, cancellations and not enough carriages to meet demand. More recent improvements in those areas are welcome but need to be maintained.”
Midlothian South MSP Christine Grahame (SNP) was a long time campaigner for the railway’s return to Midlothian. Looking back on its fist five years back in action, she said: “It’s hard to believe that only five years ago there was no Borders Railway; no Newtongrange and Gorebridge stations because now it is such a success and so much part of our landscape.
“I first campaigned for the line in 1999, just elected to the Scottish Parliament immediately setting up a cross-party group for its reinstatement.
“So as I travel on it, admiring the personalised flower tubs at Gorebridge, watching folk boarding, I remember the people who never gave up on having trains run through Midlothian again. Today I see people taking it for granted and that makes me smile because that’s just how it should be.”
Midlothian MP Owen Thompson (SNP) said: “The Borders Railway is a fantastic success story, surpassing all expectations. As the longest railway project to be completed in the UK for more than 100 years - on time and on budget - I’m delighted to have played my part when council leader in helping see this ambitious plan come to fruition.
“It re-connects our communities and is helping boost regeneration projects, such as the exciting new town development at Shawfair.
“The success of the Borders Railway shows the power of persistent campaigns and no doubt gives more power to the elbows of campaigners for Penicuik Railway too. Onwards and upwards!”
With the Campaign for Borders Rail now hoping for the line to be extended to Carlisle, who knows what the next five years will bring?