Rail study could put Langholm on the line

editorial image

A feasibility study into extending rail services to Carlisle, via Hawick, will look at the possibility of the line going through Langholm.

Confirmation that the Eskdale town would be considered was given in the Scottish Parliament by Keith Brown MSP, cabinet secretary of infrastructure and investment.

Responding to a question from Dumfries-based South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine (SNP), Mr Brown stated: “Current plans are that the South East Scotland Transport Partnership [SEStran] will appoint a contractor to undertake this study early in 2016, looking at high level connectivity to the network which will include Langholm.”

He said the Scottish Government “remained committed” to the development of the study and was working with local councils, SEStran and Network Rail to make it “as meaningful as possible” ahead of a strategic business case being prepared.

While the recently-opened Borders Railway largely follows the northern section of the old Waverley Line, the inclusion of Langholm would require a considerable deviation from the original route south through the Liddesdale village of Newcastleton.

The possibility of these two communities, 10 miles apart, vying to be on any new extended line evokes a battle which raged in the mid 19th century.

In 1845, four years before the North British Railway opened the Edinburgh to Hawick line, the company applied to parliament for further powers to extend it through Langholm and Canonbie to Carlisle.

But an impasse developed when the rival Caledonian Railway objected and unveiled its own plans for a railway to Carlisle from Hawick’s lower haugh along the same route.

In the meantime a survey was made of the Liddesdale route, via Newcastleton, and this garnered considerable support in Hawick.

When the Caledonian Railway plan was approved, 1,600 defiant supporters of a Liddesdale railway attended a meeting outside Hawick Town Hall. An appeal was taken to the House of Lords which resulted in Langholm being rejected.

The North British Railway duly completed its Edinburgh to Carlisle line through Liddesdale in 1862 – two years before the Caledonian Railway opened a branch line from Langholm, via Canonbie, to join the Waverley route at Riddings Junction.

Thus to get to Edinburgh, Langholm passengers had to go south before going north.

“In many ways, Langholmites felt cheated,” records the Langholm Archive.

Langholm’s station was a victim of the Beeching cuts with passenger services ceasing in 1964 and freight trains three years later.

Ms McAlpine has been putting the case for Langholm since the feasibility study was announced in September.

“The town is poorly served by road and rail infrastructure at the moment and the re-opening of the railway would reap huge rewards for the town,” she said.