THE first passenger trains in almost half a century are now operating between Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders.
The Scottish Government’s £294million Borders Railway is the longest domestic line to be built in the UK in over 100 years and has been delivered on time and on budget.
And the inaugural ScotRail services have now run between Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders and Edinburgh Waverley, bringing this long-awaited project to life 46 years after the original line – known as the Waverley Line – was torn out in the infamous Beeching cuts.
Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown said: “It’s been a lifetime in the making for many people in the Borders and Midlothian, but the Borders Railway is now open for business!
“There can be few projects which have generated the levels of excitement and anticipation we have seen around the opening of the Borders Railway and it was fantastic to see all the happy faces travelling on the line for the Golden Ticket day of celebrations on Saturday and the first ScotRail services on Sunday.
“The communities along the route have now been able to experience their new railway with a party to remember, and they can now make it a part of their everyday lives.
“That a scheme of this magnitude – the longest domestic railway built in the UK in over a century – has been delivered on time and on budget is testament to those who have worked on it, who can now look with a great deal of pride on the growth this railway will deliver for the communities it serves, as well as the Scottish economy as a whole.
“As of now, there are so many more possibilities for people in the Borders and Midlothian – access to new work, learning and social opportunities, as well as new business and industry links.
“Scotland’s railways are enjoying a period of success not seen since the time that the old Waverley line was built in the Victorian era, largely thanks to the Scottish Government’s record levels of investment, but also because the people of Scotland see the benefits of rail.
“The Borders Railway has become a symbol of this golden age, and it will be the vehicle for a new prosperity for the communities on the route.
The opening festival was launched on Friday evening with the switch-on of gold illuminations at half a dozen well-known landmarks along the route of the new railway.
Edinburgh Castle, the Scott Monument, Midlothian’s Newtongrange Mining Museum, the Newbattle Viaduct (which forms part of the railway), the new Galashiels Transport Interchange and the town’s Reiver Monument were all lit up ahead of Golden Ticket Day.
Saturday saw 1,600 lucky Golden Ticket winners celebrate at street parties in their local communities before boarding special ScotRail preview services.
Her Majesty The Queen will perform the formal opening of the line at a special ceremony on Wednesday, the day she overtakes Queen Victoria’s reign to become the longest-serving monarch.
She will be joined by Mr Brown and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.