The Borders Railway welcomed its ‘first’ passengers on Sunday when Hawick’s well-known rail campaigner Madge Elliot MBE and her family took a trip on the new line – before it opens to the public.
Accompanied by her husband Bob, sons Kim and Sean, as well as other friends and family, Madge joined a ‘training’ service at Tweedbank station, making her one of the first people in the country to travel on the new route.
Born in Hawick on June 20, 1928, Madge is renowned for her fight to save the Waverley Route from Edinburgh-Hawick-Carlisle.
She led a petition to keep the line open and, on 18 December 1968 - along with son Kim – hand delivered a petition to Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister at the time. Sadly, her efforts were unsuccessful, and the line closed on 6 January 1969.
Not one to be put off, in 1999 Madge helped found the Campaign for Borders Rail, a grassroots group which pushed for the restoration of rail services to the Scottish Borders.
The Elliot family’s trip on the new line – during driver training – marked the start of the six week countdown until passenger services begin running on Sunday 6 September.
Madge’s elder son Kim said: “We’re delighted to be among the first people to travel on the new Borders line, as this railway is so important to our family.
“Experiencing the route first-hand is something we’ve all been looking forward to since the Borders Railway deal was concluded in 2012, and it’s great to see my mother being honoured for the role she played in the re-opening of the line.”
Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown said: “It was a real privilege for me to meet Madge when we named a locomotive in her honour and to put her forward to experience the route before it opens.
“Madge Elliot is a legend of the Borders and the railways, and it is absolutely fitting that she be the first member of the public to travel on this line as she was so instrumental in having it reinstated.
“We’re now only weeks away from seeing what will be a truly historic event in the opening of the Borders Railway, with all of the benefits that will bring, and I look forward to joining Madge and the rest of the Borders, Midlothian and Edinburgh communities for that celebration.”
Ian McConnell, ScotRail’s Programmes and Transformation Director, said: “With six weeks to go until the opening of the new Borders Railway, we can’t think of a more fitting way to mark the occasion. We’re really pleased to welcome the Elliot family and friends on board.”