It really is time John Lamont, MSP, got down off the fence and told us all definitely whether he supports the return of the rail network to the central Borders or not. In the past, both Ruth Davidson, now Scottish Conservative leader, and Derek Brownlee, former local Conservative MSP, have expressed their support for the project and it is the policy of the Conservative councillors on Scottish Borders Council.
Almost every week in the local press Mr Lamont says he supports the Reston Station reopening, as does the Campaign for Borders Rail, and he says it will “benefit the whole of the Borders and provide a rail service for 10,000 people”. But then derides what he calls the “Gala railway which will perhaps help those who live in the central Borders round Galashiels.” Perhaps – what does he mean by that? Does he include the people of Hawick, Melrose, Newtown St Boswells, Selkirk, Earlston, Lauder, St Boswells, Clovenfords and all the small communities within that area? If he does, that seems to be a project which will provide transport benefits to a particularly large section of the Borders population. Including Edinburgh, the Borders and Midlothian we are talking of this project benefiting hundreds of thousands of people! Good bus links from all these towns and villages will link seamlessly with the trains at Galashiels Transport Interchange and car drivers will benefit from Tweedbank’s state-of-the -art park-and-ride facilities.
Would he not be better spending his time representing his constituents’ interests by pushing for the line to be extended to Hawick and Carlisle. Scottish Borders Council has protected the track bed to the south of Tweedbank and the route extension to Hawick and Carlisle is a proposal which is now being given consideration by some of Scotland’s economic development agencies. Mr Lamont’s constituents are currently paying part of their taxes towards the running and upgrade of Scotland’s railways, yet he seems to be saying that they should be denied direct access to that same rail network.
It is now the case that Mr Lamont’s anti-Borders railway position is irrelevant – the railway is coming. The economic success of the reopening will provide direct and indirect benefits to the Borders, as has proven to be the case with other rail reopenings. What now needs to be done by those who support the project is to do everything possible to ensure that what is provided in terms of infrastructure, associated station facilities and connecting services are of the highest standard to provide maximum benefits to the people and economy of the Borders and Midlothian.
Chairman, Campaign for Borders Rail