Page last updated at 10:40 GMT, Friday, 18 September 2009 11:40 UK

Borders rail link stays on course

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South of Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Artists impression of Waverley line
The line remains on schedule to reopen to trains in 2013

You could have forgiven the people of the Scottish Borders for being a bit jumpy on Thursday afternoon.

When the finance secretary announced plans to drop one of Scotland's major rail link projects they must have thought that it was going to be theirs.

It has, after all, been a source of almost constant concern.

However, the £295m reopening of the line between Edinburgh and the Borders will proceed as planned while the Glasgow Airport link is dropped.

SNP MSP Christine Grahame confirmed that her government's commitment remained in place to the south east Scotland scheme.

Rising costs

That will probably cause a fair deal of envy among those who wanted to see the Glasgow Airport Rail Link proceed.

In some ways, the line to Tweedbank might have seemed just as likely to be axed.

It has seen its projected costs rise sharply, fallen behind its original timetable and does not enjoy universal support in the Borders.

Glasgow Airport Rail Link
The decision to drop the Glasgow scheme was announced on Thursday

There have also been questions raised about commitment to the scheme and its advisability since the bill to restore the link got Royal Assent in July 2006.

Opponents have described the project as "environmental and economic folly".

They have questioned the wisdom of what they see as an attempt to turn the Scottish Borders into a commuter zone for Edinburgh.

There are also concerns about how many people would actually use the service.

Others, however, do wish to see the scheme proceed.

At present, there are no railway stations in the Scottish Borders so access to train services is problematic to say the least.

'More accessible'

Reopening the rail line also represents a significant investment in the area.

It has been described as a major step in making the region "more accessible".

With such conflicting views it remains a project which stirs strong emotions.

Any decision to drop the plans would certainly have provoked intense debate.

Stow - Undiscovered Scotland
The village of Stow will get a station under the Borders rail link plans

To some eyes, the sacrifice of a line serving communities like Tweedbank, Stow or Galashiels might have been more obvious than shelving a link to a major airport.

Others could argue that funding should not be concentrated in the central belt.

Whatever side of that fence you sit on, it makes for an interesting debate.

Is it better to target services at your biggest customer base or provide them in an area which has gone without them for some time?

It is the kind of decision which politicians are elected to make but that probably does not make it any easier.

The Borders rail link emerged the winner on Thursday in a move which has been dubbed "anti-Glasgow".

The fact that the Tweedbank line runs to Edinburgh will not have soothed those feelings.

However, it now appears that it will be the Borders and not Glasgow Airport which gets its train tracks.

Construction work should start on the south east Scotland project in 2011 with completion due in 2013.



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