University course on Borders rail line launched

Trainspotters wait to see of the last locomotive on the line in 1969.
Trainspotters wait to see of the last locomotive on the line in 1969.
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Scotland’s most-missed rail line’s imminent return has sparked worldwide interest – and even a university course about the route.

With five weeks until passenger services resume between the Capital and Tweedbank after nearly 50 years, fans from 181 countries have visited the project website – most from outside Scotland.

The last train from Hawick to Edinburgh

The last train from Hawick to Edinburgh

Golden tickets for special trains the day before the September 6 opening have been over-subscribed, while extra carriages are being laid on to cope with expected first-day passenger demand.

The line – part of the former Waverley route to Carlisle – is the longest and most ambitious rail project in Scotland for more than a century.

The restored 30-mile section between the current tracks to Newcraighall and just south of Galashiels, is seen as the potential catalyst for other reopenings across the country.

Overseas interest has been greatest in the United States, with more than 10,000 website visitors, including 5000 from Australia and 4000 from Russia. Germans, Canadians and the Dutch have also proved curious, but interest has come from as far as South Africa, India, Korea and New Zealand.

Edinburgh University is running a three-day course on the line this month, with many students coming from south of the Border. Course leader David Spaven, author of Waverley Route: The Battle For The Borders Railway, attributed interest in the reopening to its history.

Mr Spaven, who is also a rail consultant, said: “Unlike other reopenings, this one started as a grassroots campaign.

“It is also a rural railway to an area of historic and literary interest, such as that in Sir Walter Scott. It’s not what you get on the Airdrie-Bathgate line.

“People know it’s an attractive area. The line’s restoration has also been a very long time coming, after being the most controversial of the Beeching cuts when it closed in 1969.”

Network Rail, which is responsible for construction of the £350 million project, said there had been “overwhelming” demand for tickets for the special “first trains” on September 5.

A ScotRail Alliance spokesman added: “On opening day, trains will be extended to six carriages if need be and there may be queuing systems. A lot of people will be desperate to get on.

“The reopening of the line has drawn huge interest, both within the UK and from across the globe.”