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Last Updated: Monday, 23 July 2007, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Road testing the Waverley line
By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South of Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

My morning commute to work takes me about three minutes.

Waverley map

Or a little more than double that if I decide to do it on foot.

Indeed, I have always been lucky enough to live so close to my office that the stresses and strains faced by millions of city-dwellers are alien to me.

So it was a significant step into the unknown when I decided to find out how it might feel to travel for an hour or so before starting a day's work.

My route - by car - from near Tweedbank in the Borders to Edinburgh was not selected by accident, of course.

It is one which, if and when the Waverley line reopens, could potentially be taken by hundreds of rail commuters.

The estimated journey time by train would be almost exactly one hour.

I wanted to see just how much fuel, stress and time that might save me.

Giancarlo Rinaldi
Certainly, when I made the return journey to the Borders after work I found myself particularly tired

Before I even set off I found out just how much the project means to people in the Borders.

Or, at the very least, I found out that everyone had one of three opinions.

It's a great idea, it's a waste of money or it will never happen.

Recent events have increased the number of people taking the last of that trio of views.

The SNP government has voiced its concerns about the financial plans on which the whole project was based - calling on councils to bridge the funding gap.

Pretty pleasant

The authorities, for their part, have said they have no more money left to give.

However, assuming the line does reopen, what kind of difference might it make?

Leaving the centre of Melrose - just a couple of miles from Tweedbank - at just after 7.30am the roads were pretty quiet. Perhaps it was because the schools were on holiday.

With the weather set fair, the first few miles were actually a pretty pleasant drive.

Up past the historic home of Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford House and through Galashiels, everything went smoothly.

Waverley line advance works - Pic by Dougie Johnston
Advanced works have already started on the Waverley line

Indeed, as I hit the twists and turns of the A7 north of the town my only real moment of concern came when a slightly ambitious overtaking manoeuvre was heading in my direction.

The traffic remained light until I got to about Newtongrange but even then it was nothing out of the ordinary.

A few roadworks slowed my progress a little but, if I had been racing the train, we would still have been about neck and neck.

It was only when I hit Cameron Toll in Edinburgh that I had any doubts that my time might match that of the Waverley line.

As it was, I made it in time and - more or less - on the same schedule as the train might run.

Special service

So what did it prove?

It possibly lends some weight to the argument that a special commuter service should run on the line with a journey time under the hour.

On the other hand, on the train I would probably be able to do a bit of the work I was unable to do while driving.

And, certainly, when I made the return journey to the Borders after work I found myself particularly tired.

Mind you, maybe with my three-minute commute I have been a bit spoiled over the years.

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