2007 - 2021

Trains, Planes & Automobiles

In the early days of Bella, Mr Williamson had an idea for a feature called ‘Letter Bombs’ – all the letters that national newspapers refused to publish. ‘All the news unfit to print’, that kind of thing. Mibbe it’s an idea worth revisiting?

Anyway, here’s one that the Scotsman found too critical to publish so we have. It’s on the subject of railways, so not the most sexy-glamorous topic, but an important one.

Dear Editor,


The Scotsman headlines the story that Carillion are withdrawing from the IMCD Consortium tendering for the Borders Railway contract, implies a consortium dropout (though giving few details), then tries to kill the project off in a frothing editorial. The Campaign for Borders Rail (CBR) has welcomed Transport Scotland’s statement that works will be underway in the winter of 2011 with passenger services running by 2014, and that changes to consortia make-up are not uncommon on contracts of this size.

CBR fully support the funding method proposed by the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland and their attempts to reduce rail construction and maintenance costs in line with the recently published McNulty Report. Recently completed Scottish contracts such as the Airdrie–Bathgate line have come in on time & under budget, and recent rail line and station re-openings in Scotland have all been huge successes – reassuring as Peak Oil and the $ 200 or even $ 300 barrel inexorably approach.

On 9 June, Keith Brown, Minister for Housing and Transport, wrote to CBR stating that “the Scottish Government is determined to ensure that for the first time in over 40 years, people living in the Borders and Lothians can benefit from a direct rail link connecting the regions to the Capital and the Scottish Rail Network.” Mr Brown is MSP for Alloa, where the anticipated 155,000 passengers per year at reopening in 2008 turned out to be over 400,000.

“Facts are chiels, an’ all that … ” The Scotsman’s circulation, 100,000 in 2000, is now under 40,000. We are confident that the Waverley line will reopen in 2014, the bicentenary of Sir Walter Scott’s great novel. We are less confident that the Scotsman will be there to greet it.

Yours sincerely,

Christopher Harvie, Lorne and Maureen Anton, Richard Crockett, Bill Jamieson, Sarah Nelson, David Spaven.

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  1. David McCann says:

    Without a doubt, the re-opening of the Alloa/Stirling line has been the best thing which has happened to Alloa in the last 25 years. We can be in Glasgow or Edinburgh in less than an hour. Stirling is 10 minutes away. I no longer consider driving to Glasgow. Apart from the cost of fuel, and the hassle, it costs me less for my ticket than it would to park my car.
    Its the way to go.

  2. David Munro says:

    Thankyou for the above article and, by implication, your support for the Borders Rail Link. As a member of the silent majority, the reopening of the line from Tweedbank to Waverley would reduce my personal journey time (Melrose-Gala-Edinburgh) by roughly 45 minutes each way. It would save me the uncomfortable ride on First’s quaintly numbered X95 where the seats were last upholstered at the factory. The simple fact that a toilet will be available makes the train seem like heaven – a 1hr 20min bus journey from Edinburgh to Galashiels (express service, thankyou!) can sometimes be a worry!
    Here in darkest Bordersland, those against the line (the vociferous lunatic fringe who, despite appearances, include John Lamont) are against the re-opening because houses might get built, industries might come to town and tourists might blight their countryside – NIMBYism at its worst.
    The vast majority in Melrose, Galashiels and Tweedbank desperately await the line opening. We need continued political will to see the line happen – thanks to all who support the line re-opening.
    I have no connection to the Campaign for Borders Rail and am a member of no political party. I simply want the chance to travel to the capital and beyond in a semblance of comfort and in a civilised time span.

  3. drew grozier says:

    Living in Australia where the media (mainstream and otherwise) report little about what is happening in the UK outside London and the Royals; and definately nothing about Scotland. I tried to get my day to day information about my homeland from The Scotsman and The Glasgow Herald and the BBC. But apart from murder and arson nothing much happens there apparently. Nothing good anyway. All I really know is that ‘Big Eck whoever he is is very unpopular with media commentators and that the country is going doon the stank.
    Thank goodness for Bella Caledonia. The above story cheered me up. When I left in 2008 the Alloa Rail link was widely held to be another waste of taxpayers money. I think I’ll come back for holiday next year just to travel to Alloa in the train.
    ‘Let us have more Letter Bombs’ please.

  4. The greatly anticipated Borders rail link I am sure will be a great success and will no doubt whet the appetite for further rail links/expansion. A link to peebles via Penicuik to Edinburgh would be a huge asset for the local community and economy. Another rail project that should be looked at again is re-opening the south and north suburban lines in Edinburgh which would make far more sense than a single line tram line.

  5. peter smaill says:

    I wonder if the writers of this letter have actually read McNulty. His suggestions cannot have influenced the design of the Borders railway- these are ideas such as tram-style running with reduced signalling, and no fencing. None of the Parliamentary or consultant reports (obtainable via FoI) ( all of which pre-date his report) incorporate this and so we are left with the operating costs being as bad as other lines. Alloa and similar openings do indeed carry more passengers than anticipated; but as a relatively low-cost short rebuild of a freight line, in a populous area, these propositions are wholly different from the Borders. Let’s take an example : Alloa is around 5 miles from the network at Stirling, and has a population of 19,000. The Alloa line gives good access to Glasgow and Edinburgh; the Borders railway runs north to Edinburgh alone. Galashiels has a population of 13,000 and is 35 miles to the railhead, 25 to Gorebridge. Alloa has produced 400,000 travellers in year 1, but the Borders Railway was always set at over 1.1m. The was spurious as it assumed equal nbumbers travelling in both directions throughout the day, whereas the commuting effect will be unidirectional twice a day. It simply cannot be a sound project based on the standard ratio of 1 in 30 commuting; and a few hours studying the forecasts will tell anyone conversant with financial projections that the 25 mile southern part of the line is hopelessly uneconomic.

    Persistence with the old scheme is thus preventing consideration of a more modest project which could have a radically better outlook for construction risk and cost:benefit.

    The housebuilding which was to be the saviour of the “marginal” economic case when Parliament approved it is now unlikely; the A7 needs a major rebuild at Heriot to accommodate the line; two contractors have pulled out. The Transport Minister refuses to go on a BBC programme biased towards reopenings; Transport Scotland distance themselves from statements on their website as being “from a previous administration”. I wonder where this is going to end…when consultancy and preparation work tops £100m…?????

    Please note: I am not in the roads lobby, my property would be unaffected, I travel by rail over 20,000 miles a year. I was on the Waverley line before closure in 1969. I like trains, personally. No need for the ad hominem arguments that feature on other sites….

    But I’m a taxpayer !! and I dont see why other taxpayers who will not use most of this line should pay heavily for a few who might. Please can we have a civilised debate based on realistic numbers for the project.

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