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Last Updated: Monday, 11 February 2008, 13:51 GMT
'It will do more harm than good'
Nicholas Watson
Mr Watson says the line would not benefit the Borders
The project to reopen the Waverley railway line between Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders has proved contentious from the outset.

Writing for the BBC Scotland news website, Nicholas Watson, a councillor for the Borders Party, explains the reasons he is against the scheme.

Closure of the Waverley railway in 1969 was a great loss to the Borders.

But the proposed reopening of the line as far as Tweedbank, just south of Galashiels, is environmental and economic folly.

At colossal expense to the environment, and to the Scottish taxpayer, it is driving a damaging pattern of development and can only serve a tiny part of the Borders.

Everyone likes the idea of hopping on a train, but claims that substantial numbers will use this service, which takes over an hour from Tweedbank to Waverley Station, are wildly speculative.

Local opinion is clear: hardly anyone who lives near the A68, a fast trunk road, or to the east of it, is remotely interested in using the railway.

Jedburgh
Mr Watson claims towns like Jedburgh could be affected

That is why the Waverley Project's business case is based on large numbers of new houses being built to help provide the passengers.

But planning for people to live 40-odd miles from where they work is the opposite of sustainable: it is bad for the environment and bad for our communities.

If we are serious about protecting the environment we should be reducing the need to travel, not encouraging it.

Much better to relate development to local needs and employment across the whole of the Borders, to the real benefit of the region.

Concentrating new housing around the railhead is already creating suburban sprawl in one of Scotland's best loved landscapes, the central Tweed Valley, and will inevitably result in more, not less, traffic on the A7 and A68.

Meanwhile, the accompanying influx of multinational retailers to Galashiels threatens the vitality of places like Hawick and Jedburgh as much as Galashiels itself, and property prices are pushed up, making it more difficult for local people to find a house.

Poorly-used service

Trains are planned to run throughout the day at half hour intervals, so most will carry only a handful of passengers. Diesel engines are big polluters.

A poorly-used service, far from being an environmental benefit which only a few people take advantage of, is in fact a huge environmental hazard, whose passengers will be top of the carbon footprint chart, and the public subsidy chart, too.

Sweeping claims about the benefits of restoring the line must be questioned.

Scottish Parliament
Thousands petitioned the Scottish Parliament for the return of the line

Nearly all of the work created would benefit national construction companies, not Borderers.

Much is made of "connectivity", but an improved and flexible bus service connecting our towns and villages to each other as well as to Edinburgh would do the job more efficiently, with lower fares, and at a fraction of the cost.

The proposed line cannot carry freight, so the strongest case for one day extending the line to Carlisle - allowing the main north-south lines to be relieved of freight traffic - has been all but extinguished.

No wonder so many of the 17,200 who petitioned parliament for the return of the real Waverley line now feel betrayed.

This project will do considerably more harm to the Borders than good, and should be abandoned before yet more public money is thrown at it.

In 2001 the project was expected to cost 73m. Last year it crashed through the 200m buffers...


SEE ALSO
Public votes down Waverley scheme
17 Jan 08 |  South of Scotland
Road testing the Waverley line
23 Jul 07 |  South of Scotland
Urgent talks on rail plan sought
29 Jun 07 |  South of Scotland
Waverley target 'not achievable'
28 Jun 07 |  South of Scotland
Waverley funds studied 'closely'
14 Jun 07 |  South of Scotland

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