Owen Thompson: New Railway is great opportunity

The new railway is a chance to promote Midlothian as a key tourism destination. Picture: Peter Devlin
The new railway is a chance to promote Midlothian as a key tourism destination. Picture: Peter Devlin
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THE OPENING of the Borders Railway is an opportunity to promote Midlothian as a top tourist destination, says Owen Thompson

Something great is about to begin in my county. Something I wasn’t sure I’d see in my lifetime – the opening of the Borders Railway.

This is a chance for us to grab the bull by the horns and really step up to the mark to promote Midlothian as a key tourism destination. In fact, tourism is essential to our economic development, as it helps us support our jobs and puts our area on the world stage. Attractions such as the magnificent and empowering Rossyln Chapel which featured in the Hollywood blockbuster The Da Vinci Code has really helped our profile and put Midlothian on the map.

In 2013, around 4.3 million people visited Edinburgh and the Lothians – this included Midlothian. These visitors spent in the region of £1.3 billion and although most of this cash (80 per cent) was spent in Edinburgh, the new railway is set to inspire these visitors to spend more time in Midlothian. And with some top tourist attractions on our doorstep, we’re already welcoming the world to our great destination.

Take the National Mining Museum Scotland as an example, money has recently been invested to tell the tale of Midlothian’s great coal mining past. Plans are also under way at Buccleuch Estate’s Dalkeith Country Park – a fantastic open space which recently played host to our second Midfest.

But that’s only the beginning, our council is continuing to work on supporting tourism and the food and drink sectors to ensure we are ready to capitalise on the excellent opportunity we have in front of us.

We’re also looking ahead with the new Shawfair development – which is set to be centred on the new Borders Railway line with its very own station.

This new expansive community, on the fringes of Edinburgh is due to have around 4000 new houses, including schools provision.

Exciting new retail and leisure space on this site will also accommodate locals, people travelling from the city and those living even further afield.

Going forward, we’ll continue to work closely with Network Rail, BAM Nuttall, the City of Edinburgh Council and Scottish Borders Council as we wait in anticipation for the grand opening of the railway in September.

Councillor Owen Thompson is leader of Midlothian Council