Borders to Edinburgh railway: Opening date set
First Minister Alex Salmond has announced that trains will start to run on the Borders to Edinburgh railway from 6 September 2015.
Work is ongoing on the multi-million pound project to lay 30 miles of new track and build seven new stations.
Mr Salmond also announced a feasibility study to look at ways to use the railway to boost tourism in the area.
Among the possibilities is a permanent exhibit of the Great Tapestry of Scotland at Tweedbank Station.
Mr Salmond also unveiled plans for a "steam train experience" on the line which could also start in September 2015.
He met members of Scottish Borders Council (SBC), Great Tapestry of Scotland (GTS) trustees, members of the Borders Tourism Industry and members of the Waverley Route Heritage Association in Tweedbank to discuss the plans.
He said: "From September 2015 - for the first time in almost half a century - there will be passenger train services running on this track.
"For commuters and tourists alike, the reopened line will provide opportunities to enjoy the many fantastic attractions and experiences on offer in the Borders.
"We can expect the Scottish economy to benefit by tens of millions of pounds from the regular train line."
The feasibility study will look at how the area can benefit from the railway.
Other measures announced to help boost the tourism potential of the new railway include:
- The platform at Galashiels Station will be extended to accommodate longer tourist trains
- A new footpath will be constructed at Newtongrange Station to enable direct access to the Scottish Mining Museum
- Wifi connectivity will be available at all seven stations on the route
- A train will also be covered in special livery advertising the tourist potential of the Borders
SBC leader David Parker said he was delighted by the plans to "further strengthen the tourism potential of the Borders railway".
"The Scottish government's commitment to steam and charter trains is extremely welcome and will be a fantastic boost to the Borders economy," he said.
He said the plans for the permanent home for the Great Tapestry of Scotland were also "fantastic news".
Alistair Moffat, co-chairman of the GTS Trustees, said: "Four years ago, work on the Great Tapestry of Scotland began - in the Borders.
"When Sandy McCall Smith had the idea and asked me to start working on the narrative, I did that work at my house near Selkirk.
"And it is very fitting and satisfying that a work of art that has been made all over Scotland, stitched by a thousand Scots, should come back home to the Borders, the place where Scotland's textile industry saw its fullest flowering."
Midlothian Council leader Owen Thompson said plans for a path from the Newtongrange Station to the museum were very welcome.
"The station itself will potentially bring enormous economic benefits to the area and to hear Transport Scotland is now funding a path straight to one of our most fascinating museums is great news for the museum in particular and tourism in general," he said.
Catherine Maxwell Stewart, of the Scottish Borders Community Planning Partnership, said the announcements would help to "put the Borders on the map as a tourist destination for all."
VisitScotland Chairman Mike Cantlay said the railway was a "huge opportunity for Scottish tourism".
The study of tourist potential was also welcomed by David Spaven, the author of a book on the route.
He said that none of the developments would have been possible without the "dogged efforts of rail campaigners over a period of more than a decade".
"Of course, a key tourism issue which has still to be sorted out is how the charter trains will be accommodated within the limited single-track infrastructure being provided by Transport Scotland," he said.
He said it would need a "lot of ingenuity" to properly accommodate tourist charter demand on the railway.