Railway towns to get £450k cash boost

The Borders Railway, connecting Edinburgh and Tweedbank, reopened in September last year. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The Borders Railway, connecting Edinburgh and Tweedbank, reopened in September last year. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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TOWNS and villages along the Borders Railway are set to benefit after council chiefs agreed to pump an extra £450,000 into a string of developments.

Gorebridge town centre improvements are among a dozen projects being considered for investment by Midlothian Council.

The new cash comes on top of £300,000 already committed by the council towards Borders Railway promotional activities.

Council leader Councillor Catherine Johnstone said: “More than a million passenger journeys have been made on the line since it opened in September 2015.

“That’s a fantastic achievement and we need to make sure we are in as strong a position as possible to make sure Midlothian and the railway corridor are great places in which to live and learn, visit and work.

“A £10 million Scottish Government fund has been set up, managed by our blueprint partners comprising the Scottish Government, Transport Scotland, VisitScotland, Abellio ScotRail and the three local authorities, including ourselves. However, to access pockets of that money, we need to match funds.”

Earlier this month, Scottish Government ministers ordered improvements to address the Borders Railway’s “unacceptable” performance.

The move came as the first-year passenger journey total for the Edinburgh-Tweedbank route topped 1.4 million – around 20 per cent above target.

Cllr Johnstone admitted that the first year of the railway has not been without its challenges.

However, she said she was confident that Transport Scotland and Abellio ScotRail were working together to increase capacity on the trains, refurbish rolling stock and improve performance.

Midlothian Council said that £150,000 would come from the General Fund Reserve to pay for the council’s contribution to a comprehensive assessment of areas along the line.

Councillors want to establish co-ordinated commercial expansion and development opportunities, which will also benefit from £50,000 of council reserves.

A further £250,000 will also come from the General Services Capital Plan for the council’s contribution to various other Borders Railway-related projects, such as Gorebridge town centre improvements and various tourism and economic development projects.

The council heard that 12 projects were being explored, but that they were are dependent on external funding.

The Queen officially opened the railway line, which runs from Edinburgh to Tweedbank in the Borders, last September on the day she became Britain’s longest-serving monarch.

She and the Duke of Edinburgh were accompanied by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on a steam train journey along the £350 million line.

The Scottish Government has pledged to investigate the feasibility of extending the route, which closed in 1969, to Hawick and Carlisle.

Since reopening last year, the line has played host to the Flying Scotsman and other steam engines.

newsen@edinburghnews.com