PASSENGERS and campaigners gathered to board the first trains on the eagerly-awaited Borders Railway at the weekend.
Hundreds of residents living near the line were given “golden tickets” to enjoy a preview of the 30-mile journey on Saturday, before official services began yesterday.
The £294 million line – which takes passengers from Edinburgh through Midlothian to Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders – is the longest new domestic railway to be built in the UK for more than a century.
Enthusiasts said they were delighted to see part of the former Waverley line, which fell foul of the Beeching cuts in 1969, re-established, while others hailed the rail link as a boost for tourism and the local economy.
Queues at Waverley Station were modest yesterday morning, with a crowd of around 50 for the first journey to Tweedbank at 9:11am.
But as the morning went on, the Edinburgh-bound carriages were filled with passengers heading to the city for the day. By 4pm around 1,200 passengers had travelled on the line.
It was really quite emotional. This is brilliantCampaigner Andrew Bethune
Among the passengers was Roseanna Prentice, from Kelso, who was celebrating her 11th birthday by going shopping in the city with friends.
Her mother Ashley said: “We were first in the queue at 9:45am. We used to get the bus and it would take two hours. This will definitely be good for the Borders. When we got on the train, the countryside was just stunning. That in itself will encourage people down.”
Louise Watt from Jedburgh was taking nine-month-old daughter Ivy and five-year-old son Rowan to Edinburgh with their grandmother Marion Page and great-grandmother Frances Page.
Ms Watt said: “It’s good for people who work in Edinburgh, and it’s going to be good for the whole of the Borders. I’m likely to come to Edinburgh more often now. It’s been great – a really good atmosphere.”
Scientist Bruce Ball, 62, always had a keen interest in the Waverley Line and he proposed to his wife Louise by the Lothian Bridge, near Dalkeith. The couple, who live in Roslin, Midlothian, will celebrate their 30th anniversary next year.
Members of the Campaign for Borders Rail said the opening events were the culmination of a long fight to return rail services to the area.
Andrew Bethune, 63, was 16 when he went on one of the last trains from Newcastleton before the old Waverley line closed, and he was also among the demonstrators when the closure was announced.
Mr Bethune said: “When the first train came in from Galashiels [on Saturday] it was really quite emotional. This is brilliant.”
He pledged to continue the campaign as the group is keen to see the line continued to Hawick and Carlisle if it is a success.
Rail enthusiasts from all over the UK travelled to Edinburgh for the historic day.
Chris Burton, from Cambridge, said: “We are campaigning for a line to Wisbech in the centre of Cambridgeshire. This is a test case – we are encouraged.”
Rod Howat, 63, who works in the housebuilding industry, was on the first train to Tweedbank.
Mr Howat, from Edinburgh, said he was confident the new service would have a knock-on effect on property prices in Midlothian in the coming months. “Midlothian is definitely planning for growth,” he added.