18th December 2018 - The Borders railway
President Alastair Pate welcomed members to the meeting and introduced the speaker, Mr Bob Gardiner, whose subject was ‘The Borders Railway’. A railway civil engineer for 37½ years, Bob retired just as a colleague was appointed as project manager for the reinstatement of the line from Newcraighall to Tweedbank. The original line was opened in 1849 as far as Hawick and extended to Carlisle in 1862. It was closed under the Beeching Plan in January 1969 amid much protest, including the locking of a set of level crossing gates against the last train. This was a criminal offence and David Steel MP had to act as a mediator to prevent the culprits, including a local minister, being jailed.
A campaign to reopen the line was mounted almost immediately, led by Madge Elliot, and this bore fruit in 2006 when an act of Parliament was passed authorising the reinstatement of some 30% of the line. The contract for construction went to a team at Network Rail who had just completed the re-opening of the Airdrie – Bathgate line. Much of the old trackbed was reused as were many of the original structures, where these were still in place. Despite being over 100 years old and some having undergone little or no maintenance in the last 40 years, they were in remarkably good condition. One of these was the Galafoot viaduct, between Galashiels and Tweedbank, which is now one of the only two remaining railway bridges over the Tweed still carry trains, the other being the Royal Border Bridge in Berwick.
The cost was £294m, including 7 new stations and it was opened in September 2015. It is built to main line standards with provision for future electrification and has a speed limit of 90mph. Major works were required where roads had to be realigned and bridges built in place of level crossings and at Galashiels the track had to be raised some 2m to give clearance for lorries accessing an industrial estate.
Passenger numbers have far exceeded expectations with 4,000,000 journeys having been made in its first 3 years and Galashiels having 346,000 passengers/year and Tweedbank 436,000.
Bob deftly answered the many questions which ensued and the Vote of Thanks was given by Jim Watt, followed by generous applause for Bob from members.
The next meeting is the annual New Year Lunch in the Tinto Hotel on 3rd January with the next ordinary meeting being on Tuesday 15th January when Iain Bryon will talk on Mountain Rescue Search Dogs. New members are always welcome.