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Last Updated: Friday, 22 July 2005, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Green light for Borders rail link
Derelict station
The Waverley Line has lain derelict for more than 30 years
Plans to reopen the Waverley rail line in the Borders have been given the green light by a Holyrood committee.

The majority of MSPs on the Waverley Railway Bill Committee support the case for re-establishing a route between Edinburgh and Galashiels.

The Borders rail link to Galashiels and Tweedbank needs approval from the full parliament in order for it to reopen.

Committee convener Trisha Marwick said there was "a strong social case" for the rail line.

She added: "The committee was unhappy on a number of aspects but concluded that we recognised that there was a positive impact on the tourism sector in the Borders, as well as acting as a catalyst for social regeneration and attracting inward investment to the area."

The report represents another victory for the people of the Borders
Christine Grahame MSP
Scottish National Party

Ms Marwick continued: "In particular, there is a feeling of exclusion from the rest of Scotland that the railway would seek to address.

"This is the only area in Great Britain that does not have access to a railway station. They believed that a railway was important for the regeneration of the area.

"It came across very strongly that the area needed the link as they felt cut off from the rest of Scotland."

The executive has issued conditions, including a need for the project's backers to come up with a "clear and comprehensive strategy for managing the cost".

However, committee member Christine May refused to back the project because she said costings were unrealistic.

It has been estimated that it would cost about 150m to get trains running on the track again, up by 20m on the previous projection.

Council attacked

Any shortfall would have to be made up by promoters Scottish Borders Council and other sources, including private investment.

The committee criticised the council for its handling of the project and said it was concerned 10,000 new homes linked to the railway would not be ready in time.

Criticism of the local authority was echoed by the Scottish Nationalist MSP, Christine Grahame.

She said: "I think the report is very good news for the Borders, although it is clear from the report that Scottish Borders Council 'under presented' the case.

Proposed route

"I am delighted that, despite the case being poorly presented by the council, the members of the committee have been able to see the clear benefits rail would bring to the Borders."

Ms Grahame added: "I am delighted that the committee supports the idea that the railway would improve social inclusion and tourism."

"The report represents another victory for the people of the Borders."

Attacks on the local authority were rejected by transport spokesman, councillor Gordon Edgar.

It is important to remember that the council had no previous experience of a project of this kind -
Gordon Edgar
Scottish Borders Council

"The partnership has not 'under-presented' the case at all," he said.

"It would have been much more effective if Ms Grahame had devoted her energy to supporting the promotion of the bill instead of criticising the council and its advisers for what - in the scheme of things - were a small number of mistakes all of which, as the committee points out, have been corrected to their satisfaction."

He went on: "It is important to remember that the council had no previous experience of a project of this kind - the largest transport infrastructure project since the Channel Tunnel.

"We recognise that we have made some mistakes but we also need to make clear that we have now provided the committee with everything they have asked for."

The line would run 35 miles (56km) from Edinburgh to south of Galashiels.

The Waverley railway, which closed in 1969, had continued on through the Borders to Carlisle.

Campaigners hope to see the line from Tweedbank, near Galashiels, to Edinburgh, reopen by 2008.

The proposed route includes plans for new stations at Shawfair, Eskbank, Newtongrange, Gorebridge and Galashiels




SEE ALSO:
Waverley Line plan wins backing
14 Mar 05 |  Scotland
Borders rail line 'wins backing'
10 Mar 05 |  Scotland
Borders rail campaigners in rally
06 Jan 05 |  Scotland


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