Scotland will revive a 35-mile section of its historic Waverley Line, torn up at the end of the 1960s, which linked Edinburgh with Carlisle on the English border. The Scottish Executive announced in March that it would fund $240 million of the $280 million cost of rebuilding the line as far south as Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders sub-region.
The rural area has experienced decline and depopulation following the loss of textile industries. Supporters of the project say the line is essential to attract tourism and new residents. In addition, train services will cut congestion levels en route to the Scottish capital and provide new commuting opportunities, over a reasonably short distance, for the growing number of people employed in Edinburgh’s finance sector.
The Scottish Borders Council is promoting legislation in the Scottish Parliament to authorize the necessary powers to acquire land and construct the line. Currently, all rail projects in Scotland must be legislated through a private bill process.
Acknowledging that the economic case for the project was not the strongest, Transport Minister Nicol Stephen said that the Executive was satisfied that the wider regeneration benefits for the region would ensure a return on investment for taxpayers.
The Scottish Borders Council said services are slated to begin in 2008. A half-hourly frequency between Tweedbank and Edinburgh-Waverley is expected along a predominantly single-track line. Promoters say construction of an estimated 10,000 new homes in the Scottish Borders area will follow the restoration of a rail link and contribute significantly to ridership, which is estimated at 5,000 a day within the first 10 years.
Projected economic benefits of $375 million will be delivered to the local economy of the Borders area during the first 30 years of operation. Additional funding for the project is likely to be secured through developer contributions from the private sector. Large house builders and other developers have already agreed to payments in connection with proposed investments along the corridor totaling nearly $12 million. BRIAN BAKER