A Scotrail piper meets the first train from Galashiels and a road sign pointing to the reopened Galashiels Station – both mentioned in the review below.

RETURN OF THE RAILWAY - A day when justice was finally done to the Borders

Allison Cosgrove, Railfuture director and chair of Railfuture Scotland, gives a personal account of the day when the Borders Railway came back to life.

Back in 1969, the Scottish Borders lost their railway - at the whim, we later found out, of Government ministers' interests in road building companies. But the closure of the Waverley Line was a lot more than shutting a few stations. It made the Borders the most remote area in Western Europe with no access to a railway; it isolated the proud Border towns of Hawick and Galashiels who found their access to education and jobs suddenly limited as the textile industry diminished and people had to look outwith their towns for work; it limited the expectations of the smaller towns of Selkirk, Earlston and Melrose: and it made the Borders, which had been a leading player in so many aspects of Scottish life from rugby to weaving, a forgotten area of the UK.

I grew up in the Borders and remember the closure being greeted with incredulity - could this actually have happened? Why could it not have been stopped? Why was the Borders singled out for this? 

We didn't get clear answers at the time. People were angry; Madge Elliot went to Downing Street with a petition signed by thousands of people; David Steel, a young MP at the time, protested. But to no avail. The line was closed and the tracks started to be ripped up the next day to ensure the decision was final, and the Borders begin to sink into obscurity.

But in the 1990s things began to change. Firstly, we were now living in a different political sphere with the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. Scottish Ministers could change policies of the past and right the wrongs that had been done. And in 2003 that actually happened, and the Waverley Railway Act was on its way, through three tortuous years of negotiation: more than 1,000 pieces of ground to be examined by Committee, and numerous discussions later, the Act achieved Royal Assent - and people who hadn't ever believed the railway would return now knew for sure that it would happen.

And on 5th September 2015, I got to be part of it.

September 5th was Golden Ticket Day, a day specifically allocated by Scottish Borders Council to nominated people living in the area to enjoy the railway before it was open to the public. I was rubbing shoulders with families who had spent a lifetime looking after disabled people, campaigners to bring the railway back, including Madge Elliot and David Steel, and others who had endured hardship in their personal lives, founded youth organisations and contributed to the Borders community over many years. It was a great honour to be included.

We had been asked to assemble at either Stow, Galashiels or Tweedbank (the present terminus) according to preference. I was at Galashiels where we met in the new Transport Interchange where train and bus facilities will be provided together for the town. A great moment when walking up the hill to the Interchange to see the sign proclaiming "Station" (see photo), a sign absent from Galashiels for 46 years!  A wonderful breakfast was provided and we were warmly welcomed by civic leaders including Councillor David Parker, Leader of Scottish Borders Council, who has fought alongside his colleagues to have the line re-opened. Suddenly the train arrived and we were escorted to the platform by young people in special Borders Railway T-shirts, waved out of the station by Councillor Parker, and off along the Borders Railway. Helpful stewards were on the train, we were each given a souvenir bag with mementos of the day and a delicious packed lunch made entirely from products grown in the Borders was an additional treat for us all. Musicians travelled through the carriages, adding to the atmosphere.

Gliding smoothly out of Galashiels, we were struck by the number of people who stood alongside the line waving, not only in the town but on bridges and by the side of fields, welcoming the return of the train. On what was a beautiful sunny day, we marvelled at the spectacular Borders countryside, normally almost unseen by car drivers as they focus closely on the difficult A7 when travelling by road. The train took some unexpected turns, and we enjoyed the sight of Borthwick and Crichton castles standing proudly on their hilltops.

We whizzed through the stations of Stow, Gorebridge, Newtongrange, Shawfair and Eskbank, noting the new developments which, with the new stations, will encourage growth in these formerly forgotten areas, and in what seemed a very short time arrived at Waverley, to be greeted by a Scotrail piper (see photo) and a warm welcome from Visit Scotland staff as well as rail employees who all seemed delighted to see us. A Borders Market had been specially arranged in Waverley Station and it was a great experience visiting the stalls - including Borders Beer - and taking some products home with us.

The return journey was just as enjoyable. Still people waved to the train, many with cameras to record the occasion, as we travelled all the way to the end of the line at Tweedbank. A 6 minute turnaround meant there was little time to see much other than the large car and cycle parking area, but by 2017 the Scottish Tapestry will be based here in a purpose built building to ensure that Tweedbank is a destination for tourists rather than a terminus. Having seen the Tapestry myself at Kirkcaldy, and witnessed the huge interest it engenders, I have no doubt it will be a success at Tweedbank.

Back to Galashiels where we were welcomed by more people with more cameras, and the staff of the Interchange enquiring anxiously if we had had a good journey.  The best journey of my life.

Railfuture has featured several articles on the reopening of the Borders Railway

Rail riders welcome (04/09/2015) – Horse riders welcome the preview train to Tweedbank

Trains for the Borders (01/09/2015) - Trains for the reopening are unveiled by ScotRail

Waverley walkies (14/08/2015) - Dandie Terrier stands at Waverly to herald the reopening

Back to the Borders (02/01/2015) - Track being laid in preparation for the reopening.

Photos by Railfuture of the reopening are at http://www.railfuturescotland.org.uk/bordersrailway.php.

A book entitled "WAVERLEY ROUTE: The life, death and rebirth of the Borders Railway" by David Spaven, who spoke at Railfuture’s national conference in Stirling in 2012, can be bought at a discount from the Railfuture Online Shop.

Railfuture Scotland will host a national all-day conference at the Scottish National Mining Museum, Newtongrange, Midlothian, EH22 4QN, on Saturday 18th June 2016. The location has been specially chosen as it is located along the Borders Railway. The cost, which will provide welcome drinks and a buffet lunch, will be just cost just £25, with the usual 'early bird' offer for members who book prior to 30th April 2016. Book at www.railfuture.org.uk/conferences.