Now complete, the new Borders Railway route got off to a flying start after being officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen. The event – which took place on the 9th September 2015 – provided the perfect starting point for a number of other events which took place across Edinburgh, Midlothian and the Scottish Borders, to celebrate the prestigious occasion.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and 150 other guests joined Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh for an iconic steam train journey from Edinburgh, to mark the official opening of the route. The monumental occasion – which took place on the same day that Her Majesty The Queen became Britain’s longest serving monarch – was followed by the unveiling of a special plaque.
Speaking at the event last year, The First Minister said:
“Throughout Her reign – supported at all times by the Duke of Edinburgh – Her Majesty has carried out her duties with dedication, wisdom and an exemplary sense of public service. As a result, Her Majesty is admired and held in affection across the Commonwealth and around the world. The reception she has received today, demonstrates that that admiration and affection is certainly felt here in Scotland.
“The very first public opening Her Majesty performed, as Princess Elizabeth, was in Scotland – at the Aberdeen Sailors’ Home in 1944. Perhaps the proudest possession of the new Scottish Parliament is the mace she presented to us when we reconvened in 1999. Her Majesty has undertaken thousands of engagements across this nation including – last year – the opening of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. And of course, her affection for Scotland was shared by Queen Victoria, whose memory she respects so much. In fact, when Queen Victoria became the longest-serving monarch, she was also in Scotland – staying at Balmoral.
“So it is fitting that Her Majesty has chosen to mark today’s milestone here. And all of us are delighted to be able to share some of this day with her. By being here, she is adding a special touch to what is already a special day – for the Scottish Borders, for Midlothian, and for Scotland as a whole.
“I know that there will be some people here who have campaigned for a Borders rail link to be reopened, virtually from the day it was closed. It has been a long time – 46 years – in coming. But today, I’m delighted that their persistence has seen a reward.
“This new Borders Railway line is the result of £300m of investment and the expert work of more than 1,000 people. It involved building or repairing well over 100 bridges. At 31 miles, it is the longest new domestic railway in Britain for more than a century. More important than those figures, however, are the benefits the line will create. It will bring improved services for tourists – who can reach the beauty and history of the Borders in less than an hour. It will reduce car use and help the environment. It will provide better connections for local businesses and residents.
“And it puts the Scottish Borders and Midlothian back where they always belonged – on the railway map of Scotland and Britain.”
Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Keith Brown, said:
“It was a great honour for us that Her Majesty has chosen to mark this milestone by leading the celebrations for the opening of the Borders Railway.
“The people of the Borders and Midlothian have waited almost half a century to see the return of their railway and it is fitting that these two such historic events coincide.
“This will be a double celebration and we are also ensuring that the people who have campaigned, worked hard and shown such patience throughout this process are able to play a full part in the celebrations, with a separate day dedicated just to them.”
The Borders Rail project, which was constructed on time and on budget, connects communities in the Borders and Midlothian to the rail network for the first time in more than four decades.
The project – which will reportedly bring £33 million worth of benefits to the local economy – comprised the construction of four new stations in Midlothian, with a further three stations built in the Scottish Borders. In total, the Borders Railway route covers the following stations: Tweedbank, Galashiels, Stow, Gorebridge, Newtongrange, Eskbank, Shawfair, Newcraighall, Brunstane and Edinburgh Waverley.
The project – which was implemented by Transport Scotland – has been underway since 2012 and reached completion at the end of summer 2015. Work began on the final phase of the project in April 2015, with Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) being utilised extensively.
During this stage of the work, surplus material excavated during the construction of the railway was transported from the Ferniehirst area, through Stow, to Falahill. The material was then used to complete the landscaping work at Falahill.
During the works, the Old Stage Road (the C11) was closed between Ferniehirst and Stow to allow the final phase of earth movements to be completed. During this phase the movements of the HGVs were monitored with the use of six banksmen, with four located within the village of Stow.
Hugh Wark, Borders Railway Project Manager, Network Rail, said:
“These earthworks were an essential step. The works involved the use of HGV vehicles which we closely controlled. We appreciated the potential inconvenience caused during these works and we worked hard to minimise disruption to the community as far as practically possible.
“We encouraged motorists to show due care and attention and thanked local communities for their patience whilst this work was underway.”
In order to complete the Borders Railway project, a key partnership was formed between Network Rail, Transport Scotland, Midlothian Council, Scottish Borders Council, Edinburgh City Council, Bam Nuttall and ScotRail.
Transport Scotland was responsible for delivering the project, with Midlothian Council playing a major role in the development of the project. Scottish Borders Council worked with the City of Edinburgh and Midlothian Councils to make joint funding contributions towards the construction, whilst Edinburgh City Council was responsible for facilitating the delivery of the project from Newcraighall to the Edinburgh bypass.
BAM Nuttall was the principal contractor and ScotRail is responsible for all the passenger trains and stations on the Borders Railway route.
Now that the Borders Railway project is complete, it is hoped that the new line will significantly reduce local residents’ reliance on their vehicles, which in turn will reduce carbon emissions. The railway will help reduce the increasing problem of congestion on the main roads between the Borders & Edinburgh and will also reduce motor accidents.
For more information about the Borders Railway project, please visit: www.bordersrailway.co.uk.