We were pleased to welcome Dennis Lovett to our June meeting with an illustrated presentation about the Waverley Route, focusing particularly on its latter years and subsequent revival of the line to Tweedbank. It was a remarkable reversal of fortune for a line that BR was determined to close in January 1969 and Dennis left us with the intriguing question of when, not if, the remainder of the route will be reopened to Carlisle.
We started the evening with a brief introduction to the line and to musical accompaniment we were given an overview of the splendid scenery of the Scottish Borders and the many attractions this part of the UK has to offer. The Waverley Route itself stretched for 98¼ miles from Edinburgh to Carlisle and had nine branch lines linked off its main trunk. It was closed completely by BR from 6th January 1969, a highly controversial decision that was vigorously opposed. Almost since the moment of closure, a campaign to reopen the line was started.
The section from Edinburgh to Newcraighall reopened in 2002 as part of an Edinburgh Crossrail project, providing a large park and ride facility for commuters into the city. The act to rebuild what has become known as the Borders Railway received Royal Assent in July 2007. Once construction started in March 2010, a clause in the act made it a legal requirement that work was completed.
During the evening we journeyed southbound, taking in historic as well as present day views, seeing the line which had been closed in 1969 revitalised and attracting healthy amounts of traffic. The re-opened line reaches a terminus at Tweedbank but our journey continued all the way to the outskirts of Carlisle, where perhaps one day the railway will once again reach. One of the main obstacles, apart from loss of the original alignment and engineering challenges, will be making a business case for a railway serving such sparsely populated areas. What seems more feasible is reopening to Hawick, the largest of the Borders towns.
A fascinating evening, liberally illustrated with historic and present day views and a positive story about a new railway that has proven a remarkable success.