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Newbattle (or Lothianbridge) viaduct
|Type||Urban rail proposal|
|Status||Disused, scheduled for partial re-opening|
|Locale||Edinburgh, Midlothian & Borders, Scotland; Carlisle, England, UK|
|Closed||1969 (under re-construction; partial re-opening 2015)|
The Waverley Line is an abandoned double track railway line that ran south from Edinburgh through Midlothian and the Scottish Borders to Carlisle in England. It was built by the North British Railway Company, opening from Edinburgh to Hawick in 1849, and to Carlisle in 1862. It was named the Waverley Route after the novels by Sir Walter Scott.
Reconstruction work of the Edinburgh-Galashiels-Tweedbank section is under way, and this part of the line is currently (2013) scheduled to reopen in June 2015.
The route was famous for its significant gradients and bleak moorland terrain, which made it arguably the most difficult line in the UK for steam locomotive crews to work over. From Edinburgh Waverley the climb started on the city outskirts, continuing for several miles at 1 in 80 with a summit at Falahill loop. It then descended at a similar rate to Galashiels, Melrose and St Boswells before reaching Hawick and ascending for 12 miles at 1 in 80 through Stobs and Shankend to Whitrope Summit, the highest point on the line. Following Whitrope Tunnel, the line descended at an unbroken 1 in 75 for over eight miles through Riccarton Junction and Steele Road to Newcastleton, following which were easier gradients to Carlisle.
As the line was built by the North British Railway, it fell under the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) at the Grouping in 1923. The two expresses from London had traditionally run via the Midland Railway's Midland Main Line, and since the Midland became part of the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) group, the daytime 'Waverley' express and overnight sleeping car train were hauled by LMS locomotives to Carlisle, then LNER locomotives to Edinburgh Waverley.
The expresses were limited stop and in the 1950s covered the mileage from Carlisle to Edinburgh in roughly two-and-a-half hours. Motive power was usually a Gresley A3 Pacific locomotive, a class unsuited to hill climbing. With large driving wheels and three cylinders, they were designed for long stretches of 80+ mph running on heavy expresses - the 'Waverley' express was typically eight coaches and the Waverley Route was 70 mph maximum with many tight curves limited to much lower speed. On the climb from Newcastleton to Whitrope Summit the train would be down to 30 mph by Steele Road, with the locomotive being worked flat out.
Other passenger services (usually three per day) were also worked by A3s, although Thompson B1 4-6-0s made regular appearances. There was also a daily Gresley A4 diagram between Edinburgh and Carlisle - an overnight fitted freight southbound, returning with the early morning parcels train. Thompson Pacifics appeared later on, just before the line was dieselised in a drive for efficiency. In addition there were also several local passenger workings between Galashiels and Edinburgh (some via the Peebles loop) and between Hawick and Carlisle. These tended to be hauled by B1s, although V1 2-6-2 tank engines made occasional appearances, as did D49 4-4-0s.
After the end of steam, a variety of diesels worked passenger trains, especially Class 24 and 26 Sulzer-engined diesels and even Class 17 Claytons on local stoppers, and long-distance trains were often covered by Class 45 Peaks.
Freight workings were heavy and frequent, and hauled by a multitude of different classes. The significant workings were pulled by Gresley V2 2-6-2s and Gresley K3 2-6-0s as well as A3s. V2s provided service for over 30 years. In the 1960s, once the short-lived marshalling yards at Carlisle Kingmoor and Edinburgh Millerhill were opened, they worked hourly freights right through the day and night. Depending on the maximum speed of the freight working, a Carlisle to Edinburgh freight could take anything from four to seven hours. There were also stopping freight trains from Hawick to Edinburgh and Hawick to Carlisle and back, each taking a full day to complete the round trip, stopping to shunt at every station yard. These tended to be hauled by J39 0-6-0 locomotives, although BR standard class 4 2-6-0s replaced them later on.
One working in later years was a daily Halewood (Liverpool) to Bathgate freight train carrying Ford cars on carflats. Due to the heavy load, the booked motive power was a Gresley V2 and a Stanier Class 5 double-headed, usually with the V2 on the front.
Line closure and beyond
The line was included in those where passenger services were to be withdrawn in the Beeching Axe. On 17 August 1966 British Railways gave formal notice to close the line from 2 January 1967, with closure notices posted at all stations on the line. As 508 official objections were lodged against the closure within the required 6 weeks of the closure notice being issued; a reprieve was announced and the situation was on hold pending review which resulted in a public hearing being held in Hawick on 16 and 17 November 1967. On 15 July 1968, the Minister for Transport, Richard Marsh, gave the final order that the line would close on Monday, 6 January 1969. A public outcry ensued and there followed a high-profile campaign to save the line; including a petition delivered to 10 Downing Street on 18 December 1968. This was unsuccessful in preventing the closure.
The last passenger train (and the last train to traverse the entire route) was 1M82 21.56 Edinburgh Waverley - London St Pancras sleeper on 5 January 1969, hauled by Class 45 D60 "Lytham St Annes".
Feelings were running high along the route in the final weekend of passenger operations, with protesters evident at most stations, and the authorities, sensing the potential for trouble, sent a Clayton 'pilot' engine ahead of 1M82 under caution from Hawick to 'prove' the route south after a set of points at Whitrope had been tampered with.
At Newcastleton, the pilot engine found the line was blocked and the level crossing gates locked by protesters. The disturbance led to the arrest of the local minister and he was released only after David Steel MP, who was travelling on the sleeper, negotiated with the police and addressed the protesters. This caused 1M82 to arrive two hours late in Carlisle.
On the afternoon of 8 January at Riddings Junction, BR staged a tracklifting 'ceremony' for the press to split the London Midland and Scottish Regions, demonstrating their determination to dismantle the route.
After the passage of 1M82, the line was formally closed to passengers, and the line between Hawick and Longtown closed completely and came under engineers' possession for dismantling. The Up line between Lady Victoria Pit and Hawick was also not used after 6 January.
Contracts with the coal industry forced British Rail to run freight traffic until Friday, 25 April 1969 from Millerhill to Galashiels, St. Boswells and Hawick with a daily service, mainly coal traffic from Lady Victoria Pit, but also oil tank wagons to St Boswells. The signalling was drastically reduced after passenger closure with 'telephone and notice board' and one train working over the down line. At the time the 42 mile 1078 yards, block section between Lady Victoria Pit and Hawick over the down line was the longest on the British Railway network. A signalman travelled with the daily train from Lady Victoria Pit south and return to operate the still open boxes and operate levers for sidings etc.
On 28 April 1969 traffic was cut back to Lady Victoria Pit which survived until December 1971, when the line was further cut back to Newtongrange at Butlerfield Washery, which in turn survived until June 1972.
At the southern end of the route the line between Carlisle Kingmoor and Longtown remained open to traffic until 31 August 1970 when it was cut back to Brunthill. The section from Carlisle Kingmoor to Brunthill remains open and sees periodic freight traffic although this remaining portion of the route is little more than a long siding.
Tracklifting had begun, but was temporarily halted in early 1969 while negotiations with British Rail were held to discuss buying the infrastructure by a private consortium, The Border Union Railway Co. Various options were put forward to keep the route open, such as singling large sections and reducing the number of signal boxes, and a 'basic' DMU service to Edinburgh from Hawick only; but this came to nothing, and British Rail ceased negotiations on 23 December 1969 and formally announced this to the press on 6 January 1970, after requesting interest payments to keep the infrastructure 'in situ' while funding for the approximately £750,000 capital required was sought. Local authorities were also approached before and after closure to financially support a basic train service; but this too received no support.
There was a 2 year moratorium on disposal of the land on the route which was part of the closure process agreed by the Minister. Up to this point tracklifting had been limited to 'singling' sections of line, but the hiatus on tracklifting finished and work to dismantle the railway recommenced from November 1969.
An inspection saloon ran over the route in on 1 April 1970 to allow contractors to bid for the demolition work. Track lifting started in earnest and trains could be seen undertaking dismantling duties. The Down line between Hawick and Longtown was lifted by April 1971, the Up line having been lifted as early as February 1970. The entire route between Longtown to Newtongrange was removed by early 1972. The final stretch between Newtongrange and Millerhill was closed on 28 June 1972 and removed soon thereafter. There is photographic evidence of tracklifting as late as January 1972 and documentary evidence that track was still being lifted by September. By the end of that year only stubs at the north and south end of the route existed, as they still to do this day.
The last train to cross Hawick station viaduct did so on 18 April 1971. Hauled by D3880 (08713), it was lifting the line in rear of it. Hawick South signalbox was demolished on 13 July 1972, while work on dismantling the station buildings and goods shed started on 20 January 1975. Demolition of the viaduct over the River Teviot commenced nine months later, on 1 September 1975. After the closure and lifting of the line, the parcels office at Hawick and Galashiels remained open and British Rail vans continued to carry parcels traffic by road for a few more years.
In the late 1990s there was some discussion about reopening the southern section from Carlisle as far as Riccarton Junction. With the trees in the reforested areas of Kielder Forest now approaching maturity, the network of only minor roads and the local population were seen as being vulnerable to and unable to cope with a significantly increased logging traffic. Reinstating a single track was seen to provide transport capacity for heavy loads bypassing the villages, but the project was not pursued any further.
Cut off from Edinburgh to the north and Carlisle to the south, many people opted to travel by bus. But even today the main bus service to Edinburgh still takes longer than a Victorian steam train and double the time of a commuter train in 1968. Without the new Waverley Line, commuters could easily spend up to an hour and a half simply travelling from Galashiels to Edinburgh.
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At Whitrope Siding, just short of Whitrope Tunnel (12 miles south of Hawick), track panels (of track) have been relaid by the Waverley Route Heritage Association (WRHA) as part of a heritage railway (named, the Border Union Railway (Whitrope), that has since stretched from Whitrope tunnel for about 0.8 miles.
A heritage centre is also constructed at Whitrope as part of the WRHA activities. The track panels that had also been laid at the site of Riccarton Junction were sadly lifted by 2011.
The Heritage Centre had two open days in July 2010, with official opening of the Centre taking place. The opening was performed by Michael Moore MP, the local MP and the new Secretary of State for Scotland, and Madge Elliot, veteran Borders rail campaigner who led the fight to save the Waverley Route in the late 1960s.
The WRHA has a small shunter and has included cab rides, the first traction to move on the line since closure, with passenger trains running in 2012, (before officially from 2013).
In June 2006, the Waverley Railway (Scotland) Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament by 114 votes to 1. It will re-open the line as far as Tweedbank, just south of Galashiels, and was given the Royal Assent in July 2006.
£115 million has been allocated for the proposed route and services, which will extend an existing Edinburgh suburban service from Newcraighall to Shawfair, Eskbank, Newtongrange, Gorebridge, Stow, Galashiels and Tweedbank.
On 27 March 2007, Transport Minister Nicol Stephen formally initiated preparatory works. Vegetation clearance took place with a view for construction to begin in 2009 with the first trains due to run in 2011.
In August 2008, the timelines were adjusted, with tendering starting in 2009, final tendering starting in 2010, groundwork starting early 2011 and trains running early 2013. In November 2009, it was announced that the reopening would be delayed for a year.
On 3 March 2010, Transport Minister Stewart Stevenson turned the first sod, in Galashiels. This and the beginning of ancillary works marked the official start, activated the Waverley Rail Act which allows the scheme to be built and formally triggered a clause within the act that commits the Scottish Government to complete the scheme within five years.
On 27 March 2010, it was announced that tendering was underway with three bids received in June 2010. The winning bids were to be announced in September 2011. The final cost was estimated at £235m to £295m. The tender process was scrapped on 29 September 2011 and the line will now be built by Network Rail.
Network Rail began work on the Edinburgh-Tweedbank section on 6 November 2012. The line should reopen to passenger traffic in 2015. BAM Nuttall (a subsidiary of the Dutch Royal BAM Group) was appointed to build the 30-mile stretch of track from Edinburgh to Tweedbank; the budget has risen from £295m to £348m, and up to 500 jobs are expected to be created.
In 2011, a survey of Ladhope tunnel just north of Galasheils noted that the site had become used as a temporary roost by some Soprano pipistrelle and Mouse-eared bats. After agreement with and subsequent licensing from Scottish Natural Heritage, new wooden roosts were installed in trees either side of the tunnel, as well as one-way flaps inside the structure to allow the bats to exit the tunnel before renovation works began in 2013.
In 2013 concerns were raised that the project was no longer economically viable due to the failure of a local property boom, which meant a large drop in projected passenger numbers. A business case by consultants Ernst & Young said the pure economic spin-off would amount to only half of the return on the current estimated outlay of £350m. Transport Scotland insisted the project remained on course to generate benefits of up to 30% greater than overall costs.
References and notes
- Dalton, Alastair. "Borders railway completion date put back as cost of project soars". The Scotsman. Retrieved 30 March 2013.
- The re-opening of the Waverley line economic and employment potential
- Waverley Route Heritage Association
- Borders railway link bill passed
- Not to be confused with the former Edinburgh "suburban line".
- Waverley line assessment starts
- Protesters set sights on Holyrood
- 'Defining moment' as government agency takes reins of Waverley Line
- Timetable set for Borders railway
- Rail reopening faces fresh delay
- Borders to Edinburgh rail link project gets under way
- Hopes rise in the Borders as work starts on rail link
- "Borders Railway moves closer to reality" (PDF). Railway Herald (228). 28 June 2010. p. 6. Retrieved 29 June 2010.
- "Scottish rebuild progress". Railway Gazette. 27 March 2010. Retrieved 29 June 2010.
- "Borders rail link tender process scrapped". BBC News. 29 September 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
- Carrell, Severin. "Scottish Borders boost as line shut in 1960s moves step closer to reopening". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
- Dalton, Alastair. "Borders railway completion date put back as cost of project soars". The Scotsman. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
- Henderson, Damien (14 December 2012). "Borders Railway builders appointed". The Herald. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
- "Bat flaps used to help clear Galashiels railway tunnel". BBC Scotland. 5 September 2013. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- Dinwoodie, Robbie (2013-03-02). "Warning £350m rail link not economically viable". heraldscotland.com. Retrieved 2013-04-26.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Waverley Route.|
- Borders Railway - Network Rail site
- Campaign for Borders Rail
- Borders Railway Project
- Waverley Route Heritage Association
- Last Day of the Waverley Route